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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 130:19-28 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps130019

Consumption of marine snow by two species of juvenile mullet and its contribution to their growth

Larson ET, Shanks AL

Juvenile white mullet Mugil curema and juvenile striped mullet Mugil cephalus actively ingested marine snow in the laboratory. This is the first experimental verification of the consumption of marine snow by a vertebrate. The stomach contents of fish fed marine snow in the laboratory were compared to fish collected from the Charleston Harbor estuary, South Carolina, USA, and the coastal Atlantic Ocean. Results suggest that juvenile mullet consume marine snow in the natural environment. In food choice experiments in which mullet were offered a choice between marine snow and zooplankton (Artemia sp.), consumption of marine snow was inversely related to zooplankton concentrations. Mullet assimilated organic matter and total amino acids from marine snow with efficiencies of 49.2 and 55.8%, respectively. These efficiencies are comparable to those of fish feeding on benthic detritus. The contribution of marine snow to the growth of juvenile mullet was tested in growth experiments by feeding mullet different combinations of marine snow and zooplankton (Artemia sp.). Mullet did not exhibit positive growth on a diet of marine snow (specific growth rate = -1.34% d-1). Marine snow contributed to the diet of mullet by slowing weight loss (by 50%), especially when complemented with zooplankton (an additional 50%).

Marine snow . Feeding . Growth . Mullet . Detritus . Aggregates . Foodweb . Planktivores

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