Date: 09 Nov 2012

Seasonal changes in food uptake by the sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus in a farm pond: Evidence from C and N stable isotopes

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Abstract

This study investigated the seasonal changes in carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stable isotope values of several typical food sources of Apostichopus japonicus in a farm pond, including particulate organic matter (POM), macroalgae, benthic microalgae and animals such as nematode and copepod. The stable isotope technique was used to quantify relative contributions of various sources to the food uptake by A. japonicus. The results showed that significant changes occurred in the C and N stable isotope values of sea cucumber food sources due to the seasonality of micro- or macroalgae prosperity and the fluctuation of environmental conditions. The sea cucumber A. japonicus exhibited corresponding alterations in feeding strategy in response to the changes in food conditions. Calculation with a stable isotope mixing model showed that macroalgae was the principal food source for A. japonicus throughout the 1-yr investigation, with the relative contribution averaging 28.1%–63.2%. The relative contributions of other food sources such as copepod and nematode, POM, benthic microalgae to the total food uptake by sea cucumber averaged 22.6%–39.1%, 6.3%–22.2%, 2.8%–6.5%, and 2.8%–4.2%, respectively. Together these results indicated that the seasonal changes in food sources led to the obvious temporal differences in the relative contribution of various food sources utilized by A. japonicus. Such findings provide the basic scientific information for improving the aquaculture techniques of A. japonicus, particularly for optimizing the food environment of A. japonicus culture in farm ponds.