MEPS 199:55-67 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps199055

Phytoplankton composition and selective feeding of the pearl oyster Pinctada margaritifera in the Takapoto lagoon (Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia): in situ study using optical microscopy and HPLC pigment analysis

Pascale Loret1,*, Annie Pastoureaud2, Cédric Bacher2, Bruno Delesalle1

1EPHE, URA-CNRS 1453, Université de Perpignan, 66860 Perpignan Cédex, France
2CREMA, BP 5, 17137 L¹Houmeau, France

ABSTRACT: The in situ diet of the pearl oyster Pinctada margaritifera was determined in the lagoon of Takapoto Atoll by comparing the phytoplankton composition of water and bivalve gut contents using 2 different methods, optical microscopy and HPLC pigment analysis. In order to evaluate the available food resources for pearl oysters in the water column, a new method for estimating the pigment/chlorophyll a (chl a) ratio (based on an inverse analysis) was developed which allowed us to determine the contribution of the main phytoplanktonic groups in terms of chl a. In the water, picocyanobacteria and nanoflagellates predominated, the latter being mainly chlorophytes and prymnesiophytes. Comparisons between the results obtained by the 2 methods of investigation indicated that most of the dinoflagellates are unpigmented and, therefore, heterotrophic. An examination of the gut contents showed that picocyanobacteria were only weakly ingested by the oyster and, thus, nanoflagellates constituted the main food resource. Cryptophytes, although poorly represented in the water, were preferentially ingested. Chlorophytes were inefficiently digested since they were found alive and motile in the faeces of the oyster. The ecological implications of this feeding behaviour are discussed.


KEY WORDS: Pearl oyster Pinctada margaritifera · Selective feeding · Natural diet · Phytoplankton pigments · Coral reefs · French Polynesia


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