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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 187:133-145 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps187133

Patterns of seasonal and tidal feeding activity in the dendrochirote sea cucumber Cucumaria frondosa (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) in the Bay of Fundy, Canada

Rabindra Singh1, Bruce A. MacDonald1,*, Martin L. H. Thomas1, Peter Lawton2

1Department of Biology, Centre for Coastal Studies and Aquaculture, University of New Brunswick, PO Box 5050, Saint John, New Brunswick E2L 4L5, Canada
2Marine Invertebrate Fisheries Division, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Biological Station, 531 Brandy Cove Road, St. Andrews, New Brunswick E5B 2L9, Canada
*Addressee for correspondence. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: In situ field observations of the suspension-feeding North Atlantic sea cucumber Cucumaria frondosa from the Bay of Fundy, Canada, conducted over a 3 yr period, revealed a seasonal feeding rhythm. Sea cucumbers extended their tentacles and began feeding in March/April and ceased feeding in September/October. There were significant relationships between this feeding activity, daylength and the quality of the seston, but not its concentration. Together daylength and chloropigment concentration explained 49% of the variability in the percentage of feeding sea cucumbers. Feeding activity was not significantly correlated with the distinct temperature cycle observed in the study area. Feeding activity was influenced by the state of the tide, water temperature and by daylight during some periods of the feeding season. However, for most of the year these factors appeared not to be important. Sea cucumbers increased their rate of tentacle insertion into the mouth as the quality of the seston increased. The rate of tentacle insertions increased with increasing seston chloropigment concentration but decreased with increasing current speed. These 2 environmental variables explained about 28% of the variability in tentacle insertion rates. Seston quality is likely the major environmental variable influencing seasonal feeding behaviour and feeding rate in this species.

KEY WORDS: Cucumaria frondosa · Seasonal feeding · Passive suspension feeder · Feeding rates · Current · Bay of Fundy

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