MEPS 252:125-141 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps252125

In situ feeding physiology and grazing impact of the appendicularian community in temperate waters

Ángel López-Urrutia1,3,*, Xabier Irigoien2,4, José Luis Acuña1, Roger Harris2

1Area de Ecología, Departamento de Biología de Organismos y Sistemas, Universidad de Oviedo, C/Catedrático Rodrigo Uría (s/n), Oviedo 33071, Spain
2Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, West Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, United Kingdom
3Present address: Plymouth Marine Laboratory
4Present address: Technological Institute for Fisheries and Food (AZTI), Herrera Kaia Portualde z/g, 20110 Pasaia, Spain

ABSTRACT: The physical and biological factors affecting the abundance and ingestion rates of different appendicularian species were investigated from April 1999 to May 2000 at a coastal station in the English Channel and on a transect of 3 stations across the shelf in the central Cantabrian Sea. Individual gut chlorophyll and gut food volume contents were used to determine the ingestion rates on autotrophic prey and on total particulate material. Body size was the variable explaining most of the variability in gut contents. For most species, over 60% of the ingested material came from non-chlorophyll-containing prey. Appendicularian community grazing impact was higher at the oceanic stations during early spring and autumn, with maximum values close to 10% of the total phytoplankton biomass removed daily. Oikopleura longicauda and O. fusiformis were the species with the highest grazing impact. During the study period, appendicularians removed an average of 8% of the primary production (PP) measured at the only station for which we have concurrent measurements. Our results suggest that the bulk of appendicularian populations resides in the surface mixed layer and that their grazing rates increase with increasing PP. However, the percentage of the PP removed by the appendicularian community decreases with increasing productivity, indicating that their grazing impact is relatively more important under oligotrophic conditions. Appendicularians could account for close to 40% of the total mesozooplankton grazing.


KEY WORDS: Appendicularian · Gut content · Feeding · Grazing · Tunicate · Oikopleura · Fritillaria


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