skip to main content


Title: A sea of tentacles: optically discernible traits resolved from planktonic organisms in situ
Abstract Trait-based simplifications of plankton community structure require accurate assessment of trait values as expressed in situ. Yet planktonic organisms live suspended in a fluid medium and often bear elongate appendages, delicate feeding structures, and mucous houses that are badly damaged upon capture or removal from the fluid environment. Fixatives further distort organisms. In situ imaging of zooplankton from a fully autonomous Zooglider reveals a suite of trait characteristics that often differ markedly from those inferred from conventionally sampled plankton. In situ images show fragile feeding appendages in natural hunting postures, including reticulate networks of rhizopods, feeding tentacles of cnidarians, and tentilla of ctenophores; defensive spines and setae of copepods; intact mucous houses of appendicularians; and other structures that are not discernible in conventionally collected zooplankton. Postures characteristic of dormant copepods can be identified and the presence of egg sacs detected. Intact, elongate diatom chains that are much longer than measured in sampled specimens are resolvable in situ. The ability to image marine snow, as well as small-scale fluid deformations, reveals micro-habitat structure that may alter organismal behaviour. Trait-based representations of planktonic organisms in biogeochemical cycles need to consider naturally occurring traits expressed by freely suspended planktonic organisms in situ.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1637632
NSF-PAR ID:
10156899
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Date Published:
Journal Name:
ICES Journal of Marine Science
Volume:
76
Issue:
7
ISSN:
1054-3139
Page Range / eLocation ID:
1959 to 1972
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Calanoid copepods are small crustaceans that constitute a major element of aquatic ecosystems. Key to their success is their feeding apparatus consisting of sensor-studded mouth appendages that are in constant motion. These appendages generate a feeding current to enhance the encounter probability with food items. Additionally, sensing enables the organism to determine the position and quality of food particles, and to alter the near-field flow to capture and manipulate the particles for ingestion or rejection. Here we observe a freely swimming copepodLeptodiaptomus sicilisin multiple perspectives together with suspended particles that allow us to analyse the flow field created by the animal. We observe a highly periodic motion of the mouth appendages that is mirrored in oscillations of nearby tracer particles. We propose that the phase shift between the fluid and the particle velocities is sufficient for mechanical detection of the particles entrained in the feeding current. Moreover, we propose that an immersed algal cell may benefit from the excitation by increased uptake of dissolved inorganic compounds.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Microbial mortality impacts the structure of food webs, carbon flow, and the interactions that create dynamic patterns of abundance across gradients in space and time in diverse ecosystems. In the oceans, estimates of microbial mortality by viruses, protists, and small zooplankton do not account fully for observations of loss, suggesting the existence of underappreciated mortality sources. We examined how ubiquitous mucous mesh feeders (i.e. gelatinous zooplankton) could contribute to microbial mortality in the open ocean. We coupled capture of live animals by blue‐water diving to sequence‐based approaches to measure the enrichment and selectivity of feeding by two coexisting mucous grazer taxa (pteropods and salps) on numerically dominant marine prokaryotes. We show that mucous mesh grazers consume a variety of marine prokaryotes and select between coexisting lineages and similar cell sizes. We show thatProchlorococcusmay evade filtration more than other cells and that planktonic archaea are consumed by macrozooplanktonic grazers. Discovery of these feeding relationships identifies a new source of mortality for Earth's dominant marine microbes and alters our understanding of how top‐down processes shape microbial community and function.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Phenotypic features define feeding selectivity in planktonic predators and therefore determine energy flow through food webs. In current‐feeding cnidarian hydromedusae, swimming and predation are coupled such that swimming also brings prey into contact with feeding structures. Fluid mechanical disturbances may initiate escape responses by flow‐sensing prey. Previous studies have not considered how fluid signals define the trophic niche of current‐feeding gelatinous predators. We used the hydromedusaClytia gregariato determine (1) how passive (sinking) and active (swimming) feeding behavior affects pre‐encounter responses of prey to the medusae‐induced fluid motion, and (2) how prey responses affect the medusae's ingestion efficiencies. Videography of the predation process showed that passive prey such as invertebrate larvae were ingested during both feeding behaviors, whereas flow‐sensing prey such as copepods escaped the predator's active feeding behavior, but were unable to detect the predator's passive sinking behavior and were ingested (KWX2= 19.8246, df = 4,p < 0.001). Flow visualizations using particle image velocimetry (PIV) showed fluid deformation values during passive feeding below threshold values that trigger escape responses of copepods. To address whether fluid signals mediate prey capture, we compared fluid signals produced by three hydromedusae with different diets.Aequorea victoriaandMitrocoma cellulariaproduced higher deformation thanC. gregaria(two‐way ANOVA,F2,52= 5.532,p= 0.007), which explains their previously documented negative selection for flow‐sensing prey like copepods. Through the analysis of hydromedusan feeding behaviors and pre‐encounter prey escapes, we provide evidence that fluid signatures shape the trophic niches of gelatinous predators.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Gelatinous zooplankton play a crucial role in marine planktonic food webs. However, primarily due to methodological challenges, the in situ diet of zooplankton remains poorly investigated and little is known about their trophic interactions including feeding behaviour, prey selection and in situ feeding rates. This is particularly true for gelatinous zooplankton including the marine pelagic tunicate,Dolioletta gegenbauri. In this study, we applied an 18S rRNA amplicon metabarcoding approach to identify the diet of captive‐fed and wild‐caughtD. gegenbaurion the midcontinental shelf of the South Atlantic Bight, USA. Sequencing‐based approaches were complimented with targeted quantitative real‐time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analyses. Captive‐fedD. gegenbaurigut content was dominated by pico‐, nano‐ and micro‐plankton including pico‐dinoflagellates (picozoa) and diatoms. These results suggested that diatoms were concentrated byD. gegenbaurirelative to their concentration in the water column. Analysis of wild‐caught doliolids by quantitative real‐time PCR utilizing a group‐specific diatom primer set confirmed that diatoms were concentrated byD. gegenbauri, particularly by the gonozooid life stage associated with actively developing blooms. Sequences derived from larger metazoans were frequently observed in wild‐caught animals but not in captive‐fed animals suggesting experimental bias associated with captive feeding. These studies revealed that the diet ofD. gegenbauriis considerably more diverse than previously described, that parasites are common in wild populations, and that prey quality, quantity and parasites are likely all important factors in regulating doliolid population dynamics in continental shelf environments.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract Marine snow, formed through the aggregation of phytoplankton and other organic matter, can be consumed by various types of zooplankton, affecting both planktonic trophic dynamics and the export of carbon to depth. This study focuses on how two factors—phytoplankton growth phase and species—affect copepod feeding on marine snow. To do this, we conducted a series of grazing experiments using gut pigment and stable isotope methods to quantify the ingestion of the copepod, Calanus pacificus, on both marine snow aggregates and individual phytoplankton. Results demonstrate that marine snow can represent a substantial food source for copepods, comparable to rates on individual phytoplankton. Moreover, we found that both the overall ingestion and the relative ingestion of aggregates vs. individual phytoplankton depended on phytoplankton growth phase for experiments conducted with the diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii. Although copepods consumed aggregates composed of Skeletonema marinoi at similar rates as those composed of T. weissflogii, no effect of growth phase was observed for S. marinoi. These findings suggest that marine snow can be an important source of nutrition for copepods, but that its role in planktonic food webs may differ depending on the phytoplankton community composition and the stage of phytoplankton blooms. 
    more » « less