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Population dynamics of three estuarine meiobenthic harpacticoids (Copepoda) in South Carolina

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To elucidate the population dynamics of abundant meiofauna, a 15-month field study of 3 species of harpacticoid copepods was conducted in a South Carolina (USA) estuary. Per capita birth and death rates and average brood size (number of eggs per adult female) were lowest for Enhydrosoma propinguum (Brady), Microarthridion littorale (Poppe), and Stenhelia (Delavalia) bifidia (Coull) from November–February, indicating that food or density-independent factors such as temperature regulated winter densities. Reproduction for all species began in February, with the first appearance of copepodites approximately 1 month later. From March–October, M. littorale displayed high per capita birth and death rates (>0.6 individual-1 day-1), and high average brood size (8 to 9 eggs per adult female). As this species is epibenthic, and thus susceptible to grazing by detritivores, these data suggest that M. littorale was limited by predation. S. (Delavalia) bifidia displayed a sharp increase in density, birth rate and average brood size in July, but birth and death rates (≈0.3 individual-1 day-1) were always lower than those of M. littorale and average brood size gradually decreased from July–December. As this species burrows and is less susceptible to grazing predation, these data are consistent with the hypothesis that S. (Delavalia) bifidia became food-limited as population growth approached its carrying capacity. Although E. propinguum was the most abundant species, quantification of birth potential was not accomplished due to an underestimate of the number of ovigerous females. Therefore, little can be concluded about the mechanism of the summer density regulation of E. propinguum.

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Contribution No. 274 from the Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine Biology and Coastal Research, University of South Carolina.

Communicated by J.M. Lawrence, Tampa

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Fleeger, J.W. Population dynamics of three estuarine meiobenthic harpacticoids (Copepoda) in South Carolina. Marine Biology 52, 147–156 (1979). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00390422

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  • Population Dynamic
  • Adult Female
  • Abundant Species
  • Density Regulation
  • Meiofauna