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NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-AFSC-231

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Benthic invertebrates of the eastern Bering Sea: A synopsis of the life history and ecology of snails of the genus Neptunea


Snails of the genus Neptunea have a significant presence among the benthic fauna inhabiting the North American continental shelf in the eastern Bering Sea (EBS). This is reflected by the catch of annual bottom trawl-net surveys of the continental shelf conducted by the Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering Division of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Together these surveys comprise a time-series assessing stocks of groundfish and benthic invertebrates in the EBS, from 1971 to the present. In the 1975 survey of shelf and upper slope, gastropods constituted 6.6% of the biomass of invertebrates caught. In some areas catch per unit effort (CPUE; i.e., catch per unit of area swept) exceeded 30 kg/ha.

Gastropods, mostly of the order Neogastropoda which includes Neptunea, in more recent EBS shelf surveys remain one of the top 50 EBS invertebrate taxa in both total abundance and frequency of occurrence at trawl stations. Among gastropods, by far the most abundant species in these surveys are those of the genus Neptunea, particularly the four species N. pribiloffensis, N. heros, N. lyrata, and N. ventricosa. Based on hauls at standard EBS shelf stations in surveys of selected years from 1983 to 2010, we include maps for each species showing the year-by-year distribution of abundance over the area as extrapolated from haul CPUE.

Because of its high abundance in the benthic fauna, the genus probably constitutes a significant element in the benthic ecology of the region. However, little direct study of local populations has occurred to date, leaving a dearth of information available on biology and ecological relationships. More extensive observations have been made of species of Neptunea in other marine regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and this paper presents information available from these studies along with that from local studies. The information forms a synopsis of the probable characteristics of life history, trophic webs, and anthropogenic effects relating to the genus in the EBS.

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