Meiofauna on the seagrass Thalassia testudinum: population characteristics of harpacticoid copepods and associations with algal epiphytes
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- Hall, M.O. & Bell, S.S. Marine Biology (1993) 116: 137. doi:10.1007/BF00350741
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The composition and abundance of bladedwelling meiofauna was determined over a 15 mo period (1983–1984) from a Thalassia testudinum Banks ex König meadow near Egmont Key, Florida, USA. Harpacticoid copepods, copepod nauplii, and nematodes were the most abundant meiofaunal taxa on T. testudinum blades. Temporal patterns in species composition and population life-history stages were determined for harpacticoid copepods, the numerically predominant taxon. Sixteen species or species complexes of harpacticoid copepods were identified. Harpacticus sp., the most abundant harpacticoid, comprised 47.8% of the total copepods collected, and was present throughout the study. Copepodites dominated the population structures of the blade-dwelling harpacticoid species on most collection dates. Ovigerous females and/or copepodites were always present, indicating continuous reproductive activity. Results suggest that epiphytic algae influence meiofaunal abundance on seagrass blades, as densities of most meiofaunal taxa at Egmont Key were positively associated with percent cover of epiphytic algae throughout the study. The majority of significant correlations between meiofaunal density and cover of epiphytic algae involved filamentous algae, although encrusting algae dominated the epiphytic community. It appears that resources provided by epiphytic algae to seagrass meiofauna (additional food, habitat, and/or shelter from predation) may be associated with algal morphology.