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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 310:65-76 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps310065

Consumption of large bathyal food fall, a six month study in the NE Atlantic

Kirsty M. Kemp1,*, Alan J. Jamieson1, Philip M. Bagley1, Helen McGrath1, David M. Bailey1, Martin A. Collins2, Imants G. Priede1

1Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen, Main Street, Newburgh, Ellon, Aberdeenshire AB41 6AA, UK
2British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK

ABSTRACT: We deployed 2 porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) carcasses at bathyal depth (2555 to 2710 m) in the Porcupine Seabight, NE Atlantic for periods of 1 wk and 6 mo respectively. Consumption rates of 0.085 and 0.078 kg h–1 were similar to those observed at abyssal depths in the Atlantic, and 1 order of magnitude slower than at bathyal depth in the Pacific. A distinct succession of scavenging species was observed at both carcasses: the abyssal grenadier Coryphaenoides armatus and the cusk eel Spectrunculus grandis numerically dominated the initial phase of carcass consumption and, once the bulk of the soft tissue had been removed (by Day 15), were succeeded by the squat lobster Munidopsis crassa. The blue hake Antimora rostrata and amphipod numbers were unexpectedly low, and consumption was attributed largely to direct feeding by C. armatus. The interaction of a crustacean prey species (M. crassa) and cephalopod predator (Benthoctopus sp.) was observed for the first time, revealing that large food falls also attract secondary predators that do not utilise the food fall directly. The staying time of a single parasitised C. armatus (18 h) greatly exceeded previous estimates (≤8 h). This study describes the first large food fall to be monitored at high frequency over a 6 mo period, and the first observations of a large food fall at bathyal depth in the NE Atlantic. It enables direct comparison with similarly sized food falls at abyssal depth, much larger megacarrion falls, and similar studies differing in geographic location, in particular those carried out under Pacific whale migration corridors.

KEY WORDS: Food fall · Time-series · Scavenger · Deep-sea · Benthoctopus sp. · Coryphaenoides armatus · Munidopsis crassa · Deep ocean benthic observatory

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