Study of Recent abyssal benthic foraminifera from core-top samples in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean has identified distinctive faunas whose distribution patterns reflect the major hydrographic features of the region. Above 3800 m, Indian Deep Water (IDW) is characterized by a diverse and evenly-distributed biofacies to which Globocassidulina subglobosa, Pyrgo spp., Uvigerina peregrina, and Eggerella bradyi are the major contributors. Nuttalides umbonifera and Epistominella exigua are associated with Indian Bottom Water (IBW) below 3800 m. Within the IBW fauna, N. umbonifera and E. exigua are characteristic of two biofacies with independent distribution patterns. Nuttalides umbonifera systematically increases in abundance with increasing water depth. The E. exigua biofacies reaches its greatest abundance in sediments on the eastern flank of the Ninetyeast Ridge and in the Wharton-Cocos Basin. The hydrographic transition between IDW and IBW coincides with the level of transition from waters supersaturated to waters undersaturated with respect to calcite and with the depth of the lysocline. Carbonate saturation levels, possibly combined with the effects of selective dissolution on the benthic foraminiferal populations, best explain the change in faunas across the IDW/IBW boundary and the bathymetric distribution pattern of N. umbonifera. The distribution of the E. exigua fauna cannot be explained with this model. Epistominella exigua is associated with the colder, more oxygenated IBW of the Wharton-Cocos Basin. The distribution of this biofacies on the eastern flank of the Ninetyeast Ridge agrees well with the calculated bathymetric position of the northward flowing deep boundary current which aerates the eastern basins of the Indian Ocean.
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