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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 131:179-190 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps131179

Novel observations underlying the fast growth of suspension-feeding shellfish in turbid environments: Mytilus edulis

Hawkins AJS, Smith RFM, Bayne BL, Héral M

For the first time for any benthic filter-feeder, this study documents each component process of nutrient acquisition through natural tidal variations of food availability. The organic content of seston available during both neap and spring tides in the bay of Marennes-Oléron, France, decreased from 28 to 8% with increasing seston concentration from 10 to about 90 mg total particulate mass l-1. Throughout this tidal variation, the blue mussel Mytilus edulis L.cleared more water of particles as seston availability increased. Rejection of filtered material as pseudofaeces prior to ingestion remained a constant fraction of about 0.93x the mass of filtered material, so that ingestion rate showed no signs of stabilising at even the highest food availabilities. We confirm that M. edulis may preferentially reject inorganic matter with pseudofaeces. More significant was the novel observation that the net selection efficiency with which filtered organics were selectively retained for ingestion increased rapidly with the rate at which seston was filtered,this increase being faster for seston of higher organic content. The result was that the organic content of ingested matter was enriched by up to 5 times the organic content of filtered particles. Further, net absorption efficiency for ingested organics varied in strong positive relation with the organic content of ingested material. Therefore, rates of organic absorption increased with seston filtration rate, and net energy balance increased despite the decreasing organic content of particles available at higher concentrations. These collective findings demonstrate continuous interrelated changes in feeding physiology that help to maintain rates of nutrient acquisition independent of short-term fluctuations in seston composition.

Seston composition . Tidal variation . Mussel . Mytilus edulis . Feeding behaviour . Selection efficiency . Absorption efficiency . Net energy balance

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