MEPS 222:119-129 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps222119

Feeding behaviour during brooding in the oyster Ostrea chilensis: gut retention time in adults and larvae and potential use of larval faeces by adults

O. R. Chaparro1,*, C. J. Soto1, R. J. Thompson2, I. I. Concha3

1Instituto de Biología Marina ŒDr. Jurgen Winter¹, Universidad Austral de Chile, Casilla 567, Valdivia, Chile
2Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, A1C 5S7, Canada
3Instituto de Bioquímica, Universidad Austral de Chile, Casilla 567, Valdivia, Chile

ABSTRACT: The brooded larva of Ostrea chilensis is not an obligate lecithotroph, as has often been supposed, because it removes particles from the mantle cavity of the parent oyster. The ingestion of exogenous particles by the larva becomes apparent when the shell length of the veliger is approximately 290 µm, the same stage at which the velar ciliature is also visible for the first time. Experiments using red plastic marker particles showed that gut retention time in brooding oysters was significantly greater (10 to 11 h) than in non-brooding oysters (8 h), providing a mechanism for more efficient use of the ingested food. Although there was no significant difference in gut retention time between oysters brooding early and late larval stages, the late brooders eliminated most of the faeces earlier than the early brooders. Experiments using 14C-labelled algae demonstrated a shorter gut retention time in the larva (6 h) than in the non-brooding adult (10 h). Faeces from larvae contained relatively more chlorophyll a and less phaeopigment than faeces from brooding adults. The data suggest that the digestive system of the larva is much less efficient than that of the adult. Following the introduction of larvae previously fed 14C-labelled algae into the pallial cavity of the brooding parent, the radiolabel was detected in the faeces of the adult, suggesting that the parent may ingest faeces produced by the larvae. The increase in gut retention time by the adult during the brooding period and the ingestion of larval faeces compensate for the high energy costs associated with the brooding process.

KEY WORDS: Chilean oyster · Gut retention time · Larva · Brooding · Digestion · Chloropigments

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