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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

High mucous-mesh production by the ascidian Herdmania momus

Aviv Ben Tal, Noa Shenkar, Ariella Paz, Keats Conley, Kelly Sutherland, Gitai Yahel*

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: 1. Suspension feeders, including ascidians (Phylum Chordata, Class Ascidiacea), experience a dilute prey field composed of extremely small particles. The filtration apparatus of ascidians is based on a mucous-mesh that is continuously secreted and ingested. The rate and metabolic cost of this mesh secretion has not been quantified to date. We used video boroscopy to quantify the mucous-mesh production rate of the solitary ascidian Herdmania momus under different food and temperature treatments. H. momus individuals with an average biomass of 30.7 ± 1.1 mg and a branchial sac area of 10.3 ± 1.2 cm2 (±95% CI) produced an average of 276 ± 33.5 cm2 of mucous-mesh per hour, corresponding to a median turnover rate of 625±82 mesh per day. Since the mean mesh mass was 2.44 ± 0.58 mg, this production rate corresponds to roughly 50 ± 8 times the individual’s biomass per day. Food concentration had no detectable effect on mesh production rate, whereas a temperature difference of ~9 degrees (20 vs. 29 °C) moderately increased mesh production by 30-50%. The current study reveals that the feeding process of H. momus involves a high expenditure on mucous-mesh synthesis that, combined with the low food availability, may limit its growth in oligotrophic waters and under changing climate regimes.