MEPS 436:119-130 (2011)  -  doi:10.3354/meps09249

Species-specific effects of fluid shear on grazing by sea urchin larvae: comparison of experimental results with encounter-model predictions

Elisa M. Maldonado, Michael I. Latz*

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Small-scale turbulence can alter the rate of plankton predator–prey encounters. Encounter models predict that prey ingestion by slow-swimming zooplankton is enhanced at low levels of turbulence. We investigated whether small-scale turbulence increases ingestion for the slow-swimming, suspension-feeding pluteus larvae of the white urchin Lytechinus pictus and the purple urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Model predictions of the critical level of turbulence, εcr, above which encounters due to turbulence are greater than those due to behavior (swimming or suspension feeding) alone, were experimentally tested using short- and long-term grazing treatments. Because urchin larvae are smaller than the smallest eddy scales of turbulence and thus experience turbulence as laminar shear, larvae were exposed to flow conditions using a simple laminar shear flow with dissipation rates, ε, of 0, 0.1, 0.4, and 1 cm2 s–3. Short-term ingestion of beads by L. pictus larvae was unaffected by ε < 1 cm2 s–3 but was 30% greater at this level, which was greater than εcr based on flow speeds produced in suspension feeding. Long-term flow treatments with algal prey had no significant effect on grazing or growth. Short-term ingestion of beads by S. purpuratus larvae was unaffected by ε < εcr based on suspension feeding; the effect of long-term flow exposure on ingestion and growth could not be investigated because of high mortality, suggesting greater sensitivity to flow exposure compared to L. pictus. Experimental results are consistent with model predictions that εcr is high, and thus levels of turbulence in the ocean are not expected to significantly increase ingestion and reduce food limitation in suspension-feeding urchin larvae.


KEY WORDS: Grazing · Larvae · Turbulence · Urchin · Encounter model


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Cite this article as: Maldonado EM, Latz MI (2011) Species-specific effects of fluid shear on grazing by sea urchin larvae: comparison of experimental results with encounter-model predictions. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 436:119-130

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