Marine Biology

, Volume 100, Issue 2, pp 227-240

First online:

Siphon size and burying depth in deposit- and suspension-feeding benthic bivalves

  • L. ZwartsAffiliated withRijksdienst voor de IJsselmeerpolders
  • , J. WaninkAffiliated withZoological Laboratory, University of Groningen

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This paper analyses the significance of siphon investment in the life strategy of benthic bivalves. It describes the relationships between siphon weight, burying depth and shell size in Mya arenaria, Cerastoderma edule. Scrobicularia plana and Macoma balthica. All data were collected on an intertidal flat in the Dutch Wadden Sea during seven successive winter and summer periods. The four species have in common that (1) the increase of depth in relation to size can be described with an S-curve; (2) there is a linear relationship between log siphon weight and log shell size; (3) siphon investment is maximal for the size classes with the greatest increase in their depth; (4) siphon weight, in proportion to total body weight, decreases gradually for the larger size classes whose depth does not increase; (5) burying depth increases with siphon weight if individuals within a same size class are compared, but burying depth levels off above a certain siphon weight. Macoma balthica and Scrobicularia plana live twice as deep in winter as in summer, although siphon weight for both seasons is about the same. In summer both species use a part of the siphon to graze the surface around the burrow, whereas deposit feeding does not occur in winter. This might explain the seasonal variation in burying depth. On the other hand Cerastoderma edule and Mya arenaria, which are both suspension feeders, show hardly any increase of depth in winter as compared to summer. For benthic bivalves the risk of being taken by a predator decreases with depth. The burying depth levels off where individuals reach the depth refuge (though in winter Scrobicularia plana live at greater depth). The conclusion is that siphon size is one of the main factors determining the burying depth of benthic bivalves and thus plays a critical role in their survival.