MEPS 304:265-270 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps304265

Fate of copepod faecal pellets and the role of Oithona spp.

Marit Reigstad*, Christian Wexels Riser, Camilla Svensen

Norwegian College of Fishery Science, University of Tromsø, 9037 Tromsø, Norway

ABSTRACT: Because the downward flux of zooplankton faecal pellets (FP) measured in sediment traps is typically lower than FP production in overlaying waters, it is inferred that FP are recycled. One suggested explanation for low export fluxes of FP is retention through processes such as FP ingestion (coprophagy) and FP fragmentation (coprorhexy). It has become accepted that the globally important cyclopoid copepod Oithona spp. are one of the main organisms causing high retention of copepod FP, however, the experimental evidence supporting this hypothesis is limited. We conducted 3 experiments to test whether the raptorial feeding Oithona spp. removed sinking FP material produced by Calanus finmarchicus either by grazing or fragmentation. No such evidence was found. We therefore suggest that alternative explanations for pellet recycling should be sought. We believe that Oithona spp. may be indicator species for a ‘retention ecosystem’, but they are probably not the single factor explaining FP retention in the world oceans.

KEY WORDS: Faecal pellet · Faecal pellet retention · Oithona · Coprophagy · Calanus finmarchicus · Faecal pellet fragmentation

Full text in pdf format