About the Gulf of Mexico: Origin, Waters and Biota

Book cover thumbnail of Gulf of Mexico: Origin, Waters, and Biota

HRI produced the Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters, and Biota: Volume 1, Biodiversity, Texas A&M University Press 2009. The book lists 15,419 species from 40 phyla and divisions, arranged in 79 chapters; each chapter covers a phylum, class, order or other taxonomic level. Each checklist includes data for six major descriptors: Taxon, Habitat-Biology (see below for details), Depth in meters, Overall geographic range, Gulf of Mexico range and a few of the more relevant References .  

As an example, Habitat-Biology includes:
  • Ecological group descriptors (benthic, demersal, emergent vegetation, hypersaline specialist, infaunal, interstitial, nektonic, neustonic, planktonic, pelagic, epibiotic, or submergent vegetation),
  • General depth/strata descriptors (bay and nearshore, beach and shoreline, coastal surface and epipelagic, deep sea, estuarine, intertidal or semiterrestrial, neritic, outer continental shelf, slope, stenohaline)
  • Substrate/biotic associations (burrower or borer, symbiotic, hard substrate, parasitic, soft substrates, tubicolous,) and
  • Economic/management descriptors (commercially important in Gulf of Mexico, endemic solely to Gulf of Mexico, nonindigenous, potentially pathogenic, threatened or endangered). 

To order the book,visit the TAMU Press website

Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity

Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity Mapping Application, courtesy of the Houston Advanced Research Center

Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity Mapping Application, Houston Advanced Research Center

CSWGCIN partnered with The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies to produce a Gulf-wide interactive mapping application displaying information on benthos, plankton and other marine life groups. Using data gathered by 140 expert taxonomists from 80 institutions in 15 countries and published as Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters, and Biota: Volume 1, Biodiversity, Texas A&M University Press 2009, CSWGCIN produced an interactive mapping application displaying distribution for a variety of orders, classes and phyla in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity mapping application and portal are not representative of all species in the Gulf; rather, these are discussions of species listed in the book that have corresponding occurrence data. Diatoms and dinoflagellates are discussed on the portal due to their relative importance in the food web but are not represented in the mapping application at this time due to lack of data. Many more orders, classes and phyla are represented in the book discussion.

For purposes of the Gulf-wide biodiversity database, the Gulf of Mexico range is divided into four quadrants. These are derived by the intersection of a vertical line placed precisely on the 90th meridian with a horizontal line placed precisely on the 25th parallel, thus producing NW, NE, SE, and SW quadrants. Any combination of these may be used to indicate the distribution between quadrants of the Gulf of Mexico, and the word entire can be used if the distribution encompasses all four quadrants. This scheme is refined to an additional level which divides each quadrant into two octants by 45 degree subdivision of the quadrant, originated from a line at the center of the Gulf of Mexico but expressed only in coastal and continental shelf areas of the quadrant (records from outer oceanic waters assumed to be adequately defined by the less refined 4-quadrant system). This yields eight coastal and shelf subdivisions as follow: wnw, nnw, nne, ene, ese, sse, ssw, and wsw. CSWGCIN developed the mapping application using areas developed from these quadrants.The mapping application allows users to search for species information by depth and by Gulf of Mexico geographic range.

How to Use the Mapping Application

NOTE: To view a sublayer, the corresponding parent layer must also be selected. Only the topmost layer will be visible at all times.

Plus symbols and downward arrows indicate that more information is available. Please click on them to expand the information.

STEP 1: Launch the mapping application by clicking anywhere on the application image.

STEP 2: Select a Reported Species Distribution in the mapping application to view the spatial distribution of the Reported Number of Unique Species as grouped by chapter. Data are spatially aggregated by Depth Class and geographic Octant.

STEP 3: Overlay Foreground data such as jurisdictional boundaries, offshore oil platforms, and essential fish habitat to investigate relationships between species distributions and potentially explanatory variables. In order to view the Background data, such as depth class and bathymetry, uncheck the Reported Species Distribution layer.

STEP 4: Use the identify tool to further investigate Reported Species Distribution. Identify the topmost checked layer and follow the hyperlinks to view either an HTML list of all species within the selected Depth Class/Octant or to download an Excel Spreadsheet listing all species within the chapter whose presence was reported in the Gulf of Mexico.

Partner Highlights: Harte Research Institute

Logo of Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies

The Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies is a recently endowed and developing research institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Its mission is to support and advance the long-term sustainable use and conservation of the Gulf of Mexico. HRI promotes excellence and innovation in interdisciplinary scientific research, public policy initiatives, and education of the public.

HRI partners with the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS-USA) to further Gulf of Mexico research. OBIS-USA is a regional node that represents US marine biodiversity interests in the international OBIS. OBIS strives to assess and integrate biological, physical, and chemical oceanographic data from multiple sources. Users of OBIS (researchers, students, and environmental managers) will gain a dynamic view of the multi-dimensional oceanic world.

HRI is promoting and sponsoring the The Gulf of Mexico Past, Present, and Future initiative which includes the design and maintenance of a Gulf-wide internet accessible database that inventories the biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico by preparing a checklist of all species, including habitat preference, distribution, depth, relative abundance, and key references for each species. HRI and CSWGCIN partnered to use this database in the Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity portal and mapping application.  In addition, the OBIS-USA website makes the data available to the international marine science community through the International OBIS portal and provides a critical data service into the NBII National Marine theme.

The NBII Program is administered by the Biological Informatics Program of the U.S. Geological Survey
About NBII | Accessibility Statement | NBII Disclaimer, Attribution & Privacy Statement | FOIA
Science.gov Logo       USGS Logo       USAgov Logo