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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 685:31-48 (2022)  -  DOI:

Food fall-specific scavenging response to experimental medium-sized carcasses in the deep sea

S. L. Scheer1, A. K. Sweetman2, U. Piatkowski1, E. K. Rohlfer1, H. J. T. Hoving1,*

1Marine Evolutionary Ecology, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
2Deep-Sea Ecology and Biogeochemistry Research Group, The Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science and Technology, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In the deep sea, benthic communities largely depend on organic material from the overlying water column for food. The remains of organisms on the seafloor (food falls) create areas of organic enrichment that attract scavengers. The scavenging rates and communities of food falls of medium-sized squid, fish and jellyfish (1-100 cm) are poorly known. To test our hypothesis that scavenging responses are specific for different food falls, we deployed camera landers baited with squid, jellyfish and fish for 9 to 25 h at 1360 to 1440 m in the southern Norwegian Sea. Image analysis of 8 deployments showed rapid food fall consumption (20.3 ± 1.4 [SD] to 31.6 ± 3.7 g h-1) by an amphipod-dominated scavenging community that was significantly different between the food fall types. Fish and squid carcasses were mostly attended by amphipods of the genus Eurythenes. Smaller unidentified amphipods dominated the jellyfish experiments together with brittle stars (cf. Ophiocten gracilis) and decapod shrimps (cf. Bythocaris spp.); the latter only occurred on jellyfish carcasses. The removal time for jellyfish (~17 h) was almost twice as long as that for squid and fish (9-10 h). The maximum scavenger abundance was significantly higher on fish carcasses than on jellyfish and squid. The times at which abundances peaked were similar for jellyfish and fish (after 8-9 h) but significantly sooner for squid (3.00 ± 0.35 h). Our results, although based on a small number of experiments, demonstrate differences in scavenging responses between food fall species, suggesting tight coupling between the diversity and ecology of benthic scavenging communities in the Norwegian Sea.

KEY WORDS: Food fall · Scavenger · Carcasses · Benthic community · Benthic-pelagic coupling · Population dynamics · Deep sea · Eurythenes

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Cite this article as: Scheer SL, Sweetman AK, Piatkowski U, Rohlfer EK, Hoving HJT (2022) Food fall-specific scavenging response to experimental medium-sized carcasses in the deep sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 685:31-48.

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