03 June 2020
Benthic environmental impact assessments and monitoring programs accompanying offshore hydrocarbon industry activities result in large collections of benthic organisms. Such collections offer great potential for systematics, biodiversity and biogeography research, but these opportunities are only rarely realised. In recent decades, the hydrocarbon industry has started exploration activities in offshore waters off the Falkland Islands. A large collection of ca. 25,000 polychaete ( Annelida ) specimens, representing some 233 morphological species was processed at the Natural History Museum, London. Taxonomic assessment led to recognition of many polychaete species that are new to science. The existing taxonomic literature for the region is outdated and many species in existing literature are likely misidentifications. Initially, an online taxonomic guide ( http://falklands.myspecies.info) was created, to provide a single taxonomic source for 191 polychaete species to standardise identification across different environmental contractors working in Falkland Islands. Here, this effort is continued to make data available for 18,015 specimens through publication of raw biodiversity data, checklist with links to online taxonomic information and formal descriptions of five new species. New species were chosen across different families to highlight the taxonomic novelty of this area: Apistobranchus jasoni Neal & Paterson, sp. nov. ( Apistobranchidae ), Leitoscoloplos olei Neal & Paterson, sp. nov. ( Orbiniidae ), Prosphaerosyllis modinouae Neal & Paterson, sp. nov. ( Syllidae ) and Aphelochaeta falklandica Paterson & Neal, sp. nov., and Dodecaceria saeria Paterson & Neal, sp. nov. (both Cirratulidae ). The potential of the Falkland Islands material to provide up to date informationfor known species described in the literature is also highlighted by publishing images and redescription of Harmothoe anderssoni Bergström, 1916 and Aphelochaeta longisetosa (Hartmann-Schröder, 1965). Biodiversity and abundance data are made available through a DarwinCore database, including material collected from 83 stations at Sea Lion developmental oil field in North Falklands Basin and voucher specimens’ data collected from exploratory oil wells in East Falklands Basin.