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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13663

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

Florian L├╝skow*, Moira D. Galbraith, Brian P. V. Hunt, R. Ian Perry, Evgeny A. Pakhomov

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Gelatinous and soft-bodied zooplankton (GZ) have long been considered to have low energetic value (‘trophic dead end hypothesis’) and are 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 more than 1000 specimens from 34 GZ species collected from neritic and oceanic waters of the Northeast Pacific between 2014 and 2020. Species included three gastropods, sixteen hydrozoans, two nude ctenophores, six scyphozoans, three tentaculate ctenophores, and four 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 those of crustaceans. The findings of the present study emphasised 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.