Temporal variability in zooplankton prey capture rate of the passive suspension feeder Leptogorgia sarmentosa (Cnidaria: Octocorallia), a case study

Rossi, S; Ribes, M.; Coma, R.; Gili, JM
Mar Biol
There is increasing evidence that suspension feeders play a significant role in plankton-benthos coupling. However, to date, active suspension feeders have been the main focus of research, while passive suspension feeders have received less attention. To increase our understanding of energy fluxes in temperate marine ecosystems, we have examined the temporal variability in zooplankton prey capture of the ubiquitous Mediterranean gorgonian Leptogorgia sarmentosa. Prey capture was assessed on the basis of gut content from colonies collected every 2 weeks over a year. The digestion time of zooplankton prey was examined over the temperature range of the species at the study site. The main prey items captured were small (80-200 [mu]m), low-motile zooplankton (i.e. eggs and invertebrate larvae). The digestion time of zooplankton prey increased when temperature decreased (about 150% from 21[degree]C to 13[degree]C; 15 h at 13[degree]C, 9 h at 17[degree]C, and 6 h at 21[degree]C), a pattern which has not previously been documented in anthozoans. Zooplankton capture rate (prey polyp-1 h-1) varied among seasons, with the greatest rates observed in spring (0.16[plus or minus]0.02 prey polyp-1 h-1). Ingestion rate in terms of biomass ([mu]g C polyp-1 h-1) showed a similar trend, but the differences among the seasons were attenuated by seasonal differences in prey size. Therefore, ingestion rate did not significantly vary over the annual cycle and averaged 0.019[plus or minus]0.002 [mu]g C polyp-1 h-1. At the estimated ingestion rates, the population of L. sarmentosa removed between 2.3 and 16.8 mg C m-2 day-1 from the adjacent water column. This observation indicates that predation by macroinvertebrates on seston should be considered in energy transfer processes in littoral areas, since even species with a low abundance may have a detectable impact.
Nutrition; Diet; Ecology; Predators; Abiotic factors; Physical factors; Marine zones; Atlantic Ocean; North Atlantic
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