MEPS 141:95-102 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps141095

In situ grazing on plankton <10 µm by the boreal sponge Mycale lingua

Pile AJ, Patterson MR, Witman JD

Ultraplankton, heterotrophic and autotrophic plankton <5 µm, are the most abundant food source in the world's oceans, yet their role as a food source for macroinvertebrates is largely unexamined. We quantified in situ feeding on heterotrophic and autotrophic plankton <10 µm by the boreal sponge Mycale lingua using measurements that quantified sponge feeding efficiencies, pumping rates, and abundance to determine the contribution of plankton <10 µm to sponge carbon intake. Using dual-beam flow cytometry we identified 5 populations of plankton <10 µm: heterotrophic bacteria, Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus-type cyanobacteria, autotrophic eucaryotes <3 µm, and autotrophic eucaryotes 3 to 10 µm. Mycale lingua nonselectively grazed on all types of plankton <10 µm. Prochlorococcus was filtered with the highest efficiency (93%), followed by Synechococcus-type cyanobacteria (89%), autotrophic eucaryotes 3 to 10 µm (86%), heterotrophic bacteria (74%), and autotrophic eucaryotes <3 µm (72%). We conservatively estimate that M. lingua at naturally occurring densities can obtain 29 mg C d-1 m-2 feeding on plankton <10 µm, with 74% resulting from ultraplankton, suggesting that ultraplankton are an important overlooked component of benthic-pelagic coupling.

Ultraplankton · Sponges · Suspension feeding · Benthic-pelagic coupling · Mycale lingua · Gulf of Maine

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