Impact of epibenthic predation on estuarine intertidal harpacticoid copepod populations
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- Gee, J.M. Mar. Biol. (1987) 96: 497. doi:10.1007/BF00397967
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The extent to which energy is transferred directly from benthic meiofauna to epibenthic predators was investigated on an intertidal sand-flat in the Exe estuary, southwest England, during 1981–1982 and compared with data obtained from an intertidal mud-flat in the Lyhner estuary, also in south-west England, between 1978 and 1981. Two species of flatfish (Pleuronectes platessa L. and Platichthys flesus L.), two species of goby [Pomatoschistus microps (Krøyer) and P. minutus (Pallas)], brown shrimp (Crangon crangon L.) and shore crabs (Carcinus maenas L.) are the most common epibenthic predators feeding on the benthic invertebrates in these locatites. Harpacticoid copepods are the only component of the meiofauna to form a significant part of the diet of early juvenile stages of these predators, particularly the invertebrates. Harpacticoids are a more important source of food for predators feeding over the sand-flat than for those feeding on the mud-flat because in the sand-flat alternative prey of suitable size, such as small annelids, are absent. Moreover, the impact of predation on the mud-flat is spread over the whole harpacticoid species spectrum whereas on the sandflat it is confined almost entirely to a single species, Asellopsis intermedia (T. Scott). Flatfish, gobies and shrimp consume daily an estimated 0.01 to 0.1% of the standing stock of A. intermedia and account for between 12 and 22% of the observed reduction in the population of this species between July and October. Therefore, only a very small proportion of total meiofauna biomass is transferred directly to higher trophic levels.