, Volume 159, Issue 7, pp 1593-1609
Date: 25 May 2012

Population dynamics of Eudendrium racemosum (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa) from the North Adriatic Sea

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Abstract

Benthic suspension feeders in shallow waters develop in relation to the food availability and the variation of physical parameters giving rise to complex communities that act as a control factor on the plankton biomass. The aim of the work is to establish the role of the hydrozoan Eudendrium racemosum in the energy transfer from the plankton to the benthos in marine food chains of the North Adriatic Sea. This study highlighted that the hydroid biomass changed over time in relation to temperature and irradiance, and the highest abundance was observed during summer with about 400,000 polyps m−2 (about 19 g C m−2). The population suffered an evident summer decrease in relation to a peak of abundance of its predator, the nudibranch Cratena peregrina, whose adult specimens were able to eat up to 500 polyps day−1 and reached an abundance of 10 individuals m−2. The gut content analysis revealed that the hydroid diet was based on larvae of other benthic animals, especially bivalves and that the amount of ingested preys changed during the year with a peak in summer when it was estimated an average predation rate of 13.7 mg C m−2 day−1. In July, bivalves represented over 60 % of the captured items and about 18 mg C m−2 day−1. Values of biomass of E. racemosum are the highest ever recorded in the Mediterranean Sea, probably supported by the eutrophic conditions of the North Adriatic Sea. Moreover, our data suggest that settling bivalves provide the greater part of the energetic demand of E. racemosum.

Communicated by J.-M. Gili.