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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 575:43-56 (2017)  -  DOI:

Zooplankton grazing and egestion shifts particle size distribution in natural communities

Karen Stamieszkin1,*, Nicole J. Poulton2, Andrew J. Pershing3

1Darling Marine Center, 193 Clark’s Cove Road, Walpole, Maine 04573, USA
2Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, 60 Bigelow Drive, East Boothbay, Maine 04544, USA
3Gulf of Maine Research Institute, 350 Commercial Street, Portland, Maine 04101, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine plankton communities can be viewed in terms of their size structure rather than their taxonomic composition, revealing how allometric relationships affect the functioning of the community. Oceanic particle size spectra can be used to explain and predict variability in carbon export efficiency, because large particles generally sink faster than small particles. Since plankton trophic interactions impact particle size in the surface ocean, this size-structured view is a useful simplification for connecting plankton ecology with biogeochemistry. We conducted a series of grazing experiments to test the hypothesis that mesozooplankton shift particle size spectra toward larger particles, in a predictable manner that reflects their community size structure, through grazing and egestion of fecal pellets. These experiments were carried out over several months, and used natural communities of mesozooplankton and their microplankton prey collected in the coastal Gulf of Maine. After incubation, we analyzed the samples to determine size distribution and taxonomic information. Our results show that mesozooplankton grazing impacts microplankton in proportion to their abundance. Size relationships between plankton predators and prey that have been established at the individual level do not linearly translate to the community level. Further, while grazing itself does not significantly alter the particle size spectrum, repackaging of prey into mesozooplankton fecal pellets shifts particle size spectra toward larger particles.

KEY WORDS: Plankton grazing · Egestion · Particle size distribution · Imaging cytometry · Carbon flux

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Cite this article as: Stamieszkin K, Poulton NJ, Pershing AJ (2017) Zooplankton grazing and egestion shifts particle size distribution in natural communities. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 575:43-56.

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