Understanding patterns of species richness requires knowledge of the individual roles species play in community structure. Here, I use gastropod shells as a source of information about both their ecological and their evolutionary functions in generating bathymetric gradients of diversity. Specifically, morphological disparity of shell architecture in deep-sea gastropods is evaluated over a depth gradient in the western North Atlantic by constructing an empirical morphospace based on an eigenshape analysis. Morphological disparity is quantified by calculating the centroid, total range, and dispersion of the morphospace at each station along the depth gradient. The results indicate that local faunas are drawn from a regional pool with the same variance but that average dissimilarity in forms reflects the number of species in the sample. The range of the morphospace at local scales is also less than at regional scales, resulting from the variability of the morphospace centroid over depth. Although the position of the morphospace changes with depth, morphological disparity remains unaffected. Despite the lack of bathymetric patterns in variance, patterns in nearest neighbor distance persist. The findings suggest the importance of interacting ecological and evolutionary processes at varying spatiotemporal scales for both morphological disparity and species richness.
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Vol. 59 • No. 7