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MEPS 665:19-35 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13663

Gelatinous and soft-bodied zooplankton in the Northeast Pacific Ocean: organic, elemental, and energy contents

Florian Lüskow1,2,*, Moira D. Galbraith3, Brian P. V. Hunt1,2,4, R. Ian Perry5, Evgeny A. Pakhomov1,2,4

1Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, 2039-2207 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
2Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
3Institute of Ocean Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 9860 West Saanich Road, Sidney, BC V8L 4B2, Canada
4Hakai Institute, PO Box 309, Heriot Bay, BC V0P 1H0, Canada
5Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 3190 Hammond Bay Road, Nanaimo, BC V9T 6N7, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Gelatinous and soft-bodied zooplankton (GZ) have long been considered to have low energetic value (‘trophic dead end hypothesis’) and be insufficient to sustain higher trophic levels. However, the nutritional composition and energy content of GZ are often poorly known for entire groups, ignoring species-, size-, and stage-specific differences. In this study, organic matter and elemental composition (carbon and nitrogen) were measured for >1000 specimens from 34 GZ species collected from neritic and oceanic waters of the Northeast Pacific between 2014 and 2020. Species included 3 gastropods, 16 hydrozoans, 2 nude ctenophores, 6 scyphozoans, 3 tentaculate ctenophores, and 4 thaliaceans. Organic content and elemental composition were used to estimate energy content using published conversion factors and differed between and within taxonomic classes. Size-dependent variability was shown for several species. Differences in organic content and elemental composition by development stage were observed in a salp and scyphomedusa species, highlighting the need to consider life cycle stages separately. The relative energy values of GZ were generally low and highly variable, although some taxa were comparable to crustaceans. The findings of the present study emphasise the need for a more detailed consideration of GZ in marine food web models and time series analyses, to take into account their inter- and intraspecific variability.


KEY WORDS: Subarctic Pacific · Jellyfish · Elemental composition · Salish Sea · Ctenophore · Energy content · Salp · Doliolid · Pteropod · Heteropod


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Cite this article as: Lüskow F, Galbraith MD, Hunt BPV, Perry RI, Pakhomov EA (2021) Gelatinous and soft-bodied zooplankton in the Northeast Pacific Ocean: organic, elemental, and energy contents. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 665:19-35. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13663

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