MEPS 175:285-288 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/meps175285

Bacterial suspension feeding by coral reef benthic organisms

R. P. M. Bak1,2,*, M. Joenje2, I. de Jong1,2, D. Y. M. Lambrechts2, G. Nieuwland1

1Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), PO Box 59, 1970 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands
2Institute for Systematics and Population Biology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
*E-mail:

ABSTRACT: The linkage between the pelagic microbial loop in coral reefs and reef benthic communities needs study in view of changing characteristics of tropical coastal seas. We conducted field experiments, using standard microbial techniques, to assess the uptake of natural water-borne bacteria (at natural densities, 0.4 to 0.6 x 106 cm-3) by 2 common Caribbean reef organisms, the scleractinian coral Madracis mirabilis and the colonial ascidian Trididemnum solidum. The data show that these organisms are effective bacterial suspension feeders. Feeding rates of 0.75 to 1.07 x 109 bacterial cells 100 cm-2 h-1 translate into a nitrogen input of 3 to 4 nmol N cm-2 h-1. These values indicate that a large part of the nitrogen derived from particulate sources could be supplied by bacteria. We suggest that such efficient linkage between these reef organisms and the pelagic microbial communities explains the increasing/continued abundance of such benthic organisms on deteriorating Caribbean reefs.


KEY WORDS: Coral reef · Pelagic/benthic coupling · Bacteria · Suspension feeding · Heterotrophy · Ascidia · Nitrogen budget


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