During the 2019 First Descent: Seychelles Expedition, shallow and deep reef ecosystems
of the Seychelles Outer Islands were studied by deploying a variety of underwater
technologies to survey their benthic flora and fauna. Submersibles, remotely operated
vehicles (ROVs) and SCUBA diving teams used stereo-video camera systems to record
benthic communities during transect surveys conducted at 10 m, 30 m, 60 m, 120 m, 250
m and 350 m depths. In total, ~ 45 h of video footage was collected during benthic transect surveys, which was subsequently processed using annotation software in order to assess reef biodiversity and community composition. Here, we present a photographic guide for the visual identification of the marine macrophytes, corals, sponges and other common invertebrates that inhabit Seychelles’ reefs. It is hoped that the resulting guide will aid marine biologists, conservationists, managers, divers and naturalists with the coarse identification of organisms as seen in underwater footage or live in the field.
A total of 184 morphotypes (= morphologically similar individuals) were identified belonging to Octocorallia (47), Porifera (35), Scleractinia (32), Asteroidea (19), Echinoidea (10), Actiniaria (9), Chlorophyta (8), Antipatharia (6), Hydrozoa (6), Holothuroidea (5), Mollusca (2), Rhodophyta (2), Tracheophyta (2), Annelida (1), Crinoidea (1), Ctenophora (1), Ochrophyta (1) and Zoantharia (1). Out of these, we identified one to phylum level, eight to class, 14 to order, 27 to family, 110 to genus and 24 to species. This represents the first attempt to catalogue the benthic diversity from shallow reefs and up to 350 m depth in Seychelles.