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Aquatic Biology

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AB 13:27-33 (2011)  -  DOI:

Meiobenthic community underneath the carcass of a stingray: a snapshot after natural death

Gustavo Fonseca1,2,*, Pat Hutchings2, Danilo Candido Vieira1, Fabiane Gallucci1,2

1Centro de Biologia Marinha da Universidade de Sao Paulo, Rodovia Manoel Hypolito do Rego, km 131.5, São Sebastião 11600-000, Brazil
2Australian Museum, 6 College Street, Sydney 2010, New South Wales, Australia

ABSTRACT: The impact of large food falls and carrion on meiobenthic communities remains little understood. The objective of the present study was to investigate whether the carcass of a stingray, encountered fortuitously in an Australian estuary, affects the underlying meiobenthic community, in particular nematode assemblages. The integrity of the skeleton and the low redox values observed under the carcass suggest that the cadaver had been slowly and chiefly decomposed by microbes. The abundance and number of meiofaunal taxa, as well as nematode abundance and nematodespecies richness, were significantly lower under the carcass when compared to samples outside the carcass. Nonetheless, a few nematode species, typical of hypoxic/anoxic sediments, were more abundant under the carcass. Interestingly, all these species were absent or rare in samples near, but not under, the carcass, suggesting that they may take advantage of the reduced environment created by the carcass and the consequent lack of competition to prosper. As observed for other marine environments, carcasses in estuaries create a microhabitat that supports a characteristic meiobenthic fauna, distinct from those inhabiting the surrounding sediments, but similar to those of reduced habitats.

KEY WORDS: Meiofauna · Food fall · Nematode communities · Estuary · Australia

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Cite this article as: Fonseca G, Hutchings P, Candido Vieira D, Gallucci F (2011) Meiobenthic community underneath the carcass of a stingray: a snapshot after natural death. Aquat Biol 13:27-33.

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