MEPS 386:147-161 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08070

Effects of diet on release of dissolved organic and inorganic nutrients by the copepod Acartia tonsa

Grace K. Saba*, Deborah K. Steinberg, Deborah A. Bronk

Virginia Institute of Marine Science, PO Box 1346, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062, USA

ABSTRACT: Acartia tonsa copepods are not limited to herbivory and can derive up to half their daily ration from predation on heterotrophic ciliates and dinoflagellates. The effects of an omnivorous diet on nutrient regeneration, however, remain unknown. In this study, we fed A. tonsa an exclusively carnivorous diet of either (1a) heterotrophic dinoflagellate Oxyrrhis marina or (1b) Gyrodinium dominans, (2) an exclusively herbivorous diet of Thalassiosira weissflogii diatoms, or (3) a mixed omnivorous diet. We measured the release rate, composition, and stoichiometry of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP), and nitrogen (urea) in addition to the inorganic nutrients, ammonium (NH4+) and phosphate (PO43–). Despite similar ingestion rates among treatments, as well as similar C:N ratios of food items, A. tonsa release rates of DOC and NH4+ were highest while feeding on a carnivorous diet and lowest while feeding omnivorously. In contrast, urea, on average, was a higher portion of total nitrogen released in the mixed diet treatment (32 to 59%). DOP release rates were only detectable in diets containing microzooplankton prey. Our results suggest that copepod diet plays an important role in determining the quantity and composition of regenerated C, N, and P available to phytoplankton and bacteria. Additionally, the uncoupling of ingestion and nutrient release rates and the variability in released ratios of dissolved C:N:P in our study suggests that stoichiometric models based exclusively on predator and prey C:N and N:P ratios may not be adequate in determining stoichiometry of total nutrient release.


KEY WORDS: Copepod · Diet · Food quality · Excretion · Omnivory · Carbon · Nitrogen · Phosphorus


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Cite this article as: Saba GK, Steinberg DK, Bronk DA (2009) Effects of diet on release of dissolved organic and inorganic nutrients by the copepod Acartia tonsa. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 386:147-161

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