MEPS 297:303-310 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps297303

Digestion of diatoms by planktonic copepods and doliolids

G.-A. Paffenhöfer1,*, M. Köster2

1Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, 10 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, Georgia 31411, USA
2Institut für Ökologie der Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald, 18565 Kloster/Hiddensee, Germany

ABSTRACT: The goal of our studies was to quantify the digestive performance of a calanoid copepod in comparison to a commonly occurring pelagic tunicate. A comparison of the carbon and nitrogen content of quantitatively recovered fecal pellets with ingested amounts revealed that the large calanoid Eucalanus hyalinus digested the diatoms Thalassiosira weissflogii and Rhizosolenia alata significantly better than the doliolid Dolioletta gegenbauri did. This was attributed to the copepods’ ability to crush the diatom cells after ingestion, while the doliolids caused minimal physical damage to the diatom cells. As for D. gegenbauri, it digested the large diatom R. alata far better than the small diatom T. weissflogii. The pellets from the latter contained nearly 50% of the ingested carbon and nitrogen. These findings are supported by visual observations. The results imply that doliolids are not able to utilize diatoms as efficiently as calanoid copepods, and will most likely rely more on soft-walled food particles such as flagellates. These findings also imply that a considerable percentage of particulate organic matter ingested by doliolids, in water masses dominated by diatoms, could become available to the benthic communities of continental shelves since the doliolid pellets sink quite rapidly.

KEY WORDS: Digestion · Diatoms · Copepods · Doliolids

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