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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 373:53-70 (2008)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07716

Feeding ecology and predation impact of the recently established amphipod, Themisto libellula, in the St. Lawrence marine system, Canada

Alexandra Marion1,2, Michel Harvey2,*, Denis Chabot3, Jean-Claude Brêthes1

1Institut des Sciences de la Mer (ISMER), Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR), 310 Allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, Québec G5L 3A1, Canada
2Direction des Sciences Océaniques et Environnementales, Ministère des Pêches et des Océans, Institut Maurice-Lamontagne, CP 1000, Mont-Joli, Québec G5H 3Z4, Canada
3Direction des Sciences Halieutique et de l’Aquaculture, Ministère des Pêches et des Océans, Institut Maurice-Lamontagne, CP 1000, Mont-Joli, Québec G5H 3Z4, Canada
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Themisto libellula was virtually absent from the St. Lawrence marine system (SLMS) before 1990. Since then, it has become an abundant, full-time resident of this system. Hyperiid amphipods of the genus Themisto are principally carnivorous and represent an essential link in the trophic pathway from secondary production to higher trophic levels. Sampling of T. libellula was carried out in the lower St. Lawrence Estuary (LSLE) and the northwest Gulf of St. Lawrence (NWGSL) in the fall of 1998, 2003 and 2004 to study the feeding dynamics and predation impact of this species on mesozooplankton and macrozooplankton communities. Our results showed that T. libellula was an opportunistic predator with a circadian feeding cycle; activity was higher during the second part of the night and the sunrise period. Stomach content analyses showed that these amphipods consumed chiefly copepods, in particular, the copepodite stages CIV and CV of Calanus finmarchicus. Euphausiids, chaetognaths, amphipods and mysids constituted other important prey. Digestion time was estimated at 13 h. The daily ingestion rate of T. libellula was estimated using 2 approaches: (1) stomach fullness index and (2) mean number of prey removed per unit of time and converted to prey biomass using the stage-species dry masses of each prey item. We found that the daily ingestion rate of T. libellula ranged from 6.32 to 16.82% of body dry mass per day in both study areas (LSLE and NWGSL). Concerning predation impact, T. libellula consumed between 0.14 and 1.79% of the combined mesozooplankton and macrozooplankton standing stock per day and between 0.43 and 2.48% of the C. finmarchicus standing stock. Themisto libellula may thus exert a significant control on the mesozooplankton and macrozooplankton communities in the SLMS through direct predation.


KEY WORDS: Hyperiid amphipod · Themisto libellula · Feeding ecology · Ingestion rate · Digestion time · Predation impact · Gulf of St. Lawrence


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Cite this article as: Marion A, Harvey M, Chabot D, Brêthes JC (2008) Feeding ecology and predation impact of the recently established amphipod, Themisto libellula, in the St. Lawrence marine system, Canada. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 373:53-70. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07716

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