MEPS 357:153-164 (2008)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07309

Benthic foraminifera as trophic links between phytodetritus and benthic metazoans: carbon and nitrogen isotopic evidence

Hidetaka Nomaki1,*, Nanako O. Ogawa1, Naohiko Ohkouchi1, Hisami Suga1, Takashi Toyofuku1, Motohiro Shimanaga2, Takeshi Nakatsuka3, Hiroshi Kitazato1

1Institute for Research on Earth Evolution, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), 2–15, Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka City, Kanagawa 237-0061, Japan
2Aitsu Marine Station, Center for Marine Environment Studies, Kumamoto University, 6061 Aitsu, Matsushima-machi,  Kamiamakusa-shi, Kumamoto 861-6102, Japan
3Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, Kita-19, Nishi-8, Kita-Ku, Sapporo 060-0819, Japan

ABSTRACT: We examined the trophic levels of deep-sea benthic foraminifera and metazoans based on stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions of soft tissue to evaluate the role of foraminifera in deep-sea benthic ecosystems. Living benthic foraminifera and metazoans were collected from 2 bathyal sites in Sagami Bay, Japan (water depths 750 and 1430 m) on 3 occasions (April 2004, November 2004 and August 2005). Both carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions significantly differed among the analysed foraminiferal species. At the deeper site δ15N of the benthic foraminifera ranged from 6.7 to 11.0‰ (typically 7 to 10‰) with considerable interspecies variations. This implies that most benthic foraminifera utilize primarily surface sediments (4.5‰) or particulate organic matter (6.4‰) as their food sources. Many metazoan meiobenthic organisms, in particular polychaetes of meiofaunal size, some harpacticoid copepods, and kinorhynchs (examined only at the shallower site), exhibited δ15N heavier than foraminifera, suggesting that they occupy higher trophic levels than benthic foraminifera. Macro- and megabenthos (spatangoids, ophiuroids and Dentalioida) exhibited δ15N of 10 to 14‰, suggesting they belong in trophic levels 1 to 2 steps higher than metazoan meiobenthos and benthic foraminifera. Similar isotopic trends were observed at the shallower site. Combining the isotopic evidences and the observations on gut contents of some metazoan meiobenthos, together with previous experimental results, the benthic foraminifera in the bathyal Sagami Bay are considered a bridge in the energy flow from phytodetritus and sediments to metazoans.


KEY WORDS: Benthic foraminifera · Metazoan meiobenthos · Carbon isotopic composition · Nitrogen isotopic composition · Trophic level · Deep-sea food web · Foraminiferivory


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Cite this article as: Nomaki H, Ogawa NO, Ohkouchi N, Suga H and others (2008) Benthic foraminifera as trophic links between phytodetritus and benthic metazoans: carbon and nitrogen isotopic evidence. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 357:153-164. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07309

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