, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 155-170

A new radiotracer technique involving 14C and 51Cr, for estimating the assimilation efficiencies of aquatic, primary consumers

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Summary

Gravimetric, radiotracer, and indicator methods currently available for estimating assimilation efficiencies, have been reviewed and their associated limitations have been discussed. It was concluded that the basic assumption implicit to gravimetric and indicator techniques, i.e. that all material contained within the faeces is derived from the food, does not generally hold. Radiotracer techniques are not based on this assumption but are time consuming. Consequently a new radiotracer technique analogous to indicator methods has been developed. In this technique the concentration of a non-absorbed indicator is expressed in terms of a radiotracer, 14C, which can be absorbed but which, at least initially, is only present in the food, rather than expressing it in terms of dry weight. 51Cr has been used as the nonabsorbed indicator.

Use of these two isotopes in conjunction not only enables a distinction to be made between faecal material derived from food, and that derived from metabolic secretions but also facilitates estimation of assimilation efficiences fromsmall samples of faeces only. The new technique requires simply, measurement of the ratio 14C:51Cr in samples of both food and faeces.

The applicability of conditions necessary for operation of the new technique has been tested on two species of freshwater gastropod, one feeding on epilithic algae, the other on bacteria, and its effectiveness has been tested by reference to results obtained from another, more conventional method involving 14C only.