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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 357:67-77 (2008)  -  DOI:

Transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) from marine suspension feeders enhance particle aggregation

Binglin Li1,2,*, J. Evan Ward1, Bridget A. Holohan1

1Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, 1080 Shennecosset Road, Groton, Connecticut 06340, USA
2Present address: Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii, 1000 Pope Rd, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA

ABSTRACT: Transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) are known to form from dissolved precursors released by phytoplankton and bacteria. Many benthic suspension feeders also have been shown to produce significant amounts of TEP under field and laboratory conditions. Although TEP from phytoplankton have been implicated in enhancing aggregation and sedimentation of suspended material, the role of TEP from suspension feeders in aggregate formation is still unknown. In order to determine if TEP produced by suspension feeders enhance the formation of marine aggregates, organic matter from actively feeding blue mussels Mytilus edulis and sea vases Ciona intestinalis held in recirculating chambers was collected. Control water was collected from chambers without animals. Animal-conditioned and control water were then mixed with 1 of 2 non-sticky particles (silica-amino beads or diatomaceous earth). The suspensions were transferred to 250 ml bottles, which were placed on a roller table to generate aggregates. Particle aggregation was quantified by examining the size distribution of particles over time by means of an electronic particle counter (particles between 6 and 90 µm), and by counting large (greater than ca. 100 µm) aggregates under a microscope at the end of the experiment. We found that significantly more aggregates formed in the animal-conditioned water than in control water after 48 h, for both species and both kinds of added particles. The number of large aggregates that formed was related to TEP concentration, and not related to total or dissolved organic carbon. Our results suggest that suspension feeders produce significant quantities of TEP that can enhance particle aggregation.

KEY WORDS: Transparent exopolymer particles · TEP · Suspension feeders · Aggregation · Aggregates · Organic matter · Bivalves · Tunicates

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Cite this article as: Li B, Ward JE, Holohan BA (2008) Transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) from marine suspension feeders enhance particle aggregation. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 357:67-77.

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