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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 245:149-155 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps245149

Burrow irrigation behavior of Urechis caupo, a filter-feeding marine invertebrate, in its natural habitat

Christopher J. Osovitz, David Julian*

Department of Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611-8525, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Urechis caupo is a burrow-dwelling filter feeder that captures suspended particles in a mucus net and irrigates its burrow with peristaltic body wall contractions. An electromagnetic flow meter was used to measure the burrow irrigation rates of 7 U. caupo in their natural burrows under normal tidal cycles. The average burrow irrigation rate of 266 ± 158 ml min-1 (mean ± SD) was much greater than that typically reported in laboratory studies (10 to 50 ml min-1). Periods of high irrigation activity, which probably corresponded to feeding behavior, represented 33% of the recorded behavior. These events each lasted for 13.8 ± 4.1 min (mean ± SD), during which time the average irrigation rate was 440 ± 160 ml min-1 (mean ± SD) with a maximum sustained rate of 870 ml min-1. The mean pumping frequency (5.8 contractions min-1) was similar to that of laboratory studies, while the mean stroke volume (44 ml) was comparatively high, indicating that increased stroke volume produced the high flow rates observed in our study. Based on previous density estimates (61 m-2), the data suggest that a population of U. caupo in 1 m2 of mudflat can collectively pump 23000 l water d-1 through their burrows, of which 13000 l is filtered through the mucus net.

KEY WORDS: Burrow irrigation · Urechis caupo · Filter feeding · Bioturbation · Invertebrate

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