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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 440:163-176 (2011)  -  DOI:

Feeding strategies and resource partitioning ­mitigate the effects of oligotrophy for marine cave mysids

Pierre-Alexandre Rastorgueff1,*, Mireille Harmelin-Vivien1, Pierre Richard2, Pierre Chevaldonné1

1Diversité Evolution et Ecologie Fonctionnelle Marine, ‘DIMAR’, UMR-CNRS 6540, Centre d’Océanologie de Marseille, Université de la Méditerranée, Station Marine d’Endoume, rue de la Batterie des Lions, 13007 Marseille, France
2Littoral, Environnement et Sociétés, ‘LIENSs’, UMR-CNRS 6250, Université de La Rochelle, 2 rue Olympe de Gouges, 17000 La Rochelle, France

ABSTRACT: We investigated how large populations of several mysid species can coexist in oligo­trophic underwater marine caves and their relationships in the marine cave food web using carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes. Isotopic signatures indicate food partitioning among the 5 species of cave-dwelling mysids from the northwest Mediterranean Sea we studied. Hemimysis speluncola feeds mainly on phytoplankton and zooplankton from outside the caves, Siriella gracilipes on sedimentary organic matter and zooplankton from outside, Harmelinella mariannae on small cave-dwelling crustaceans, and Hemimysis margalefi and Hemimysis lamornae mediterranea on sedimentary particulate organic matter. These differences in diet could promote coexistence of such diverse and abundant mysid faunas in marine caves by reducing interspecific competition for scarce resources. The analysis of both seston and cave sediments revealed that the quantity and quality of organic matter are strongly reduced in marine caves, suggesting that cave-dwelling mysids find most of their food elsewhere. This inference agrees with documented distributions of some of these mysids outside of caves at night where they can feed in the rich littoral zone. These migrations of some species make cave-dwelling mysids important vectors of organic matter transfer from the outside euphotic littoral zone to various locations inside caves. Outside organic matter is then made available to other cave dwellers through mysid fecal pellet production and predation, as suggested by the isotopic compositions of predators like teleost fishes, decapod crustaceans, and carnivorous cladorhizid sponges.

KEY WORDS: Trophic ecology · Resource partitioning · Mysidacea · Marine caves · Oligotrophy · Stable isotopes · NW Mediterranean

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Cite this article as: Rastorgueff PA, Harmelin-Vivien M, Richard P, Chevaldonné P (2011) Feeding strategies and resource partitioning ­mitigate the effects of oligotrophy for marine cave mysids. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 440:163-176.

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