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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

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

S. L. Scheer, A. K. Sweetman, U. Piatkowski, E. K. Rohlfer, H. J. T. Hoving*

*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 baited camera landers with squid, jellyfish and fish for 9-25 hours at 1360-1440 m in the Southern Norwegian Sea. Image analysis of eight deployments showed rapid food fall consumption (20.3 ± 1.4 to 31.6 ± 3.7 g h-1) by an amphipod-dominated scavenging community, that was significantly different between the foodfall 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 of 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.