Nutritional ecology of Agalma okeni and other siphonophores from the epipelagic western North Atlantic Ocean
Biggs, Douglas C.
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LocationWestern North Atlantic Ocean
KeywordSiphonophora; Knorr (Ship : 1970-) Cruise KN53; Chain (Ship : 1958-) Cruise CH122; Chain (Ship : 1958-) Cruise CH125; Atlantis II (Ship : 1963-) Cruise AII84; Atlantis II (Ship : 1963-) Cruise AII85; Atlantis II (Ship : 1963-) Cruise AII86
The feeding and fishing behavior of siphonophores in their natural environment: was observed by SCUBA diving at 171 stations in warm-water areas of the Western North Atlantic Ocean. Calycophorae and Physonectae showed a two-phase cycle of fishing and swimming. The fishing posture of a siphonophore is determined by its floatation and by the contractility of its stem; fishing postures can be similar in siphonophores which are unrelated generically. Total tentacle length in colonies with 2 - 3 mg body protein can extend 4.5 meters. Variations in the morphology of tentilla reflect differences in the kinds of prey which can be captured. Dissection of feeding polyps revealed that most siphonophores could eat copepods, amphipods, polyc:haetes, pteropods, heteropods, veliger larvae, sergestids, mysids, euphausiids, and small fish, though laboratory experiments showed that not all could eat nauplii. Species which could capture Artemia nauplii usually required 2 - 4 hours to digest them, while large prey took 7 - 18 hours to be digested. Since a single feeding polyp of species which captured nauplii could ingest more than one per minute, colonies with 20 - 150 feeding polyps may be able to eat several hundred individuals within minutes if they encounter aggregations of small zooplankton. Agalma okeni was the most common siphonophore encountered by divers. Colonies of A. okeni maintained in the laboratory on a diet of Artemia nauplii, copepods, or shrimp budded an additional feeding polyp and 1 - 2 pairs of nectophores about every two days. Energetic calculations suggest that small and medium-size colonies incorporate 48% and 33%, respectively, of ingestion into production. A small colony of A. okeni with six nectophores probably requires 2.8 - 5.0 calories to balance daily rates of oxygen consumption and growth; a medium-size colony with 14 nectophores probably requires 5.8 - 9.2 calories. Extrapolating from short-term increases in size in the laboratory, the generation time of A. okeni in tropical and subtropical regions is likely 2 1/2 - 4 weeks. Respiration of siphonophores at 26 ± 3°C ranged from 2 - 86 μ1 02/mg protein-hr, and ammonia excretion ranged from 0.1 - 3.3 μg NH4/mg protein-hr. The cystonects Rhizophysa filiformis and Bathyphysa sibogae had low rates of respiration and excretion, while calycophores of the genus Sulculeolaria had the highest rates. For most siphonophores, ratios of oxygen consumed to ammonia-nitrogen excreted ranged from 16 - 36 and suggest that both protein and lipid are important metabolites.
Submitted in partial fullfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution May 1976
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