MEPS 356:299-310 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07368

Gelatinous plankton: irregularities rule the world (sometimes)

F. Boero1,**,***, J. Bouillon1, C. Gravili1, M. P. Miglietta2, T. Parsons3, S. Piraino1,***

1DiSTeBA, CoNISMa, Stazione di Biologia Marina, Università del Salento, 73100 Lecce, Italy
2Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Naos Marine Laboratory, PO Box 0843-03092 Balboa, Panama
3Institute of Ocean Sciences, Sidney, British Columbia V8L 4B2, Canada
*This text has been subject to peer review **Email: ***These authors contributed equally to this work

ABSTRACT: In spite of being one of the most relevant components of the biosphere, the plankton-benthos network is still poorly studied as such. This is partly due to the irregular occurrence of driving phenomena such as gelatinous plankton pulses in this realm. Gelatinous plankters rely on their life cycles and histories to exploit temporarily abundant resources with an undeniable, but often overlooked, impact on marine food webs. Dramatic increases of gelatinous filter-feeders and/or carnivores (both native and nonindigenous species) are frequently observed, and explanations of these blooms alternatively invoke ecosystem variability, climate change, unspecified anthropogenic perturbation or removal of top predators from trophic networks. Gelatinous plankters, however, are not anomalies in plankton dynamics: the recognition of the ecological importance of their pulses, based on their life cycle patterns (often involving benthic stages), is a critical breakthrough to understand the cycling diversity of plankton in space and time. The current study focuses on the many neglected aspects of the ecology and biology of gelatinous zooplankton, describes how life cycle patterns are central in marine ecology, as are the pulses of gelatinous organisms, and highlights how such a dramatic lack of knowledge can affect our understanding of the marine ecosystem as a whole.

KEY WORDS: Gelatinous plankton · Resource patchiness · Life cycle · Life history · Cysts · Trophic networks · Benthic-pelagic coupling · Cnidaria · Ctenophora · Thaliacea

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Cite this article as: Boero F, Bouillon J, Gravili C, Miglietta MP, Parsons T, Piraino S (2008) Gelatinous plankton: irregularities rule the world (sometimes). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 356:299-310

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