Abstract

Taxonomic composition and distribution of the echinoderms associations in the littoral ecosystems from the Colombian Pacific. This paper examines published information and gray literature about taxonomy and ecology of echinoderm species of the Colombian Pacific Coast. Unpublished collection data of specimens kept in the Marine Sciences Museum of the University of Valle are also considered. Sixty-six species are found in coastal ecosystems and shallow bottoms of ten geographical, coastal and insular localities of the Pacific coast of Colombia. Main habitats having echinoderms are: rocky cliffs and shores, coral reefs, sand beaches, mud substrates, mangroves, and shallow bottoms of mud, sand, gravel and rocks. Regular Echinoidea and Asteroidea are the most diverse and abundant groups, mainly in subtidal rocky shallow bottoms and coral reefs. Ophiuroidea are abundant below rocky boulders. Irregular Echinoidea are abundant on sand beaches. The relatively high number of species shows that this geographical area presents a high diversity of echinoderms compared with other tropical shallow and littoral zones of the world. Rocky substrates and coral reefs are the ecosystems with the highest numbers of echinoderm species and individuals. A conservation status assessment is difficult because the lack of periodical sampling and few data about deep zones. In general, the species reported in the last 25 years, have not experimented important changes in their populations, although in some specific places, populations may decrease because human activities in coastal areas increase sedimentation rates change some rocky substrates to mud or sand. Rev. Biol. Trop. 53(Suppl. 3): 195-206. Epub 2006 Jan 30.
Keywords: Echinoderms, Eastern Pacific, taxonomy, marine biodiversity, Colombia