What Is Meiobenthology?

Meiobenthology is the study of small benthic metazoans that pass through a 0.500 mm sieve and are retained on a 0.063 (or 0.045 mm) sieve. The majority of recognized phyla have meiofaunal representatives. Comprehensive accounts on meiofauna are given in Higgins and Thiel (1988) and Giere (1993, 2009).

A List of Meiofaunal Taxa

Currently, 20 phyla (bold) considered to be meiofaunal (1) from the 34 recognized phyla of the Kingdom Animalia. Out of these 20 phyla, only five are exclusively meiofaunal (italics). (Modified from Robert Higgins, pers. comm.)

Phyla of the Kingdom Animalia




Marine Freshwater Terrestrial
Porifera Yes Yes No No
Placozoa Endemic No No No
Cnidaria Yes Yes No Yes
Ctenophora Endemic No No No
Platyhelminthes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Orthonectida No No No Endemic (Marine)
Rhombozoa No No No Endemic (Marine)
Cycliophora No No No Endemic (Marine)
Acanthocephala No No No Endemic
Nemertea Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nematomorpha No No No Endemic
Gnathostomulida Endemic No No No
Kinorhyncha Endemic No No No
Loricifera Endemic No No No
Nematoda Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rotifera Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gastrotricha Yes Yes No No
Entoprocta Yes Yes No Yes
Priapulida Endemic No No No
Pogonophora Endemic No No No
Echiura Endemic No No No
Sipuncula Endemic No No No
Annelida Yes Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tardigrada Yes Yes Yes No
Onychophora No No Endemic No
Mollusca Yes Yes Yes Yes
Phoronida Endemic No No No
Bryozoa Yes Yes No No
Brachiopoda Endemic No No No
Echinodermata Endemic No No No
Chaetognatha Endemic No No No
Hemichordata Endemic No No No
Chordata Yes Yes Yes Yes

(1) Two more phyla of the Kingdom Protoctista (Sarcomastigophora and Ciliophora) have meiofaunal representatives.

Suggested reading:

Higgins, R.P., Thiel, H. (1988). Introduction to the study of meiofauna. Smithsonian Institution Press.

Giere, O. (2009). Meiobenthology: The microscopic motile fauna of aquatic sediments. Second Edition. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Margulis, L., Schwartz, K.V., and Dolan, M. (1994). The Illustrated Five Kingdoms: A Guide to the Diversity of Life on Earth. Harper Collins College Publishers.