“VacuSIP”, an improved “InEx” method for in situ measurement of particulate and dissolved compounds processed by active suspension feeders

Morganti, T.; Yahel, G.; Ribes, M.; Coma, R.
Journal of Visualized Experiments
Benthic suspension feeders play essential roles in the functioning of marine ecosystems. By filtering large volumes of water, removing plankton and detritus, and excreting particulate and dissolved compounds, they serve as important agents for benthic-pelagic coupling. Accurately measuring the compounds removed and excreted by suspension feeders (such as sponges, ascidians, polychaetes, bivalves) is crucial for the study of their physiology, metabolism, and feeding ecology, and is fundamental to determine the ecological relevance of the nutrient fluxes mediated by these organisms. However, the assessment of the rate by which suspension feeders process particulate and dissolved compounds in nature is restricted by the limitations of the currently available methodologies. Our goal was to develop a simple, reliable, and non-intrusive method that would allow clean and controlled water sampling from a specific point, such as the excurrent aperture of benthic suspension feeders, in situ. Our method allows simultaneous sampling of inhaled and exhaled water of the studied organism by using minute tubes installed on a custom-built manipulator device and carefully positioned inside the exhalant orifice of the sampled organism. Piercing a septum on the collecting vessel with a syringe needle attached to the distal end of each tube allows the external pressure to slowly force the sampled water into the vessel through the sampling tube. The slow and controlled sampling rate allows integrating the inherent patchiness in the water while ensuring contamination free sampling. We provide recommendations for the most suitable filtering devices, collection vessel, and storing procedures for the analyses of different particulate and dissolved compounds. The VacuSIP system offers a reliable method for the quantification of undisturbed suspension feeder metabolism in natural conditions that is cheap and easy to learn and apply to assess the physiology and functional role of filter feeders in different ecosystems.
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