Marine Biology

, Volume 146, Issue 3, pp 483–495 | Cite as

Feeding in dominant Antarctic copepods—does the morphology of the mandibular gnathobases relate to diet?

  • J. Michels
  • S. B. Schnack-Schiel
Research Article


This study should clarify the importance of morphology and stability of the mandibular gnathobases for the diet of Antarctic copepod species. The gnathobase morphology of the dominant copepod species Calanoides acutus, Calanus propinquus, Ctenocalanus citer, Rhincalanus gigas, Metridia gerlachei, Stephos longipes, Microcalanus pygmaeus and Paraeuchaeta antarctica from the Southern Ocean was investigated in detail by means of a scanning electron microscope. The mandibular gnathobases of C. acutus, C. propinquus and C. citer have relatively short and compact teeth. These species feed mainly on diatoms and are able to crack the silicious diatom frustules with their mandibular gnathobases by directed pressure. In contrast the teeth of the mandibular gnathobases of P. antarctica are very long and pointed. The nutrition of this species consists predominantly of other smaller copepod species. The motile prey can be held by skewering, using the gnathobases, and then eventually minced. The mandibular gnathobases of P. antarctica have notably more small bristles than those of the other investigated copepod species. These bristles are probably associated with receptors and could serve to locate the prey. The morphology of the gnathobases of R. gigas and M. gerlachei is between that of P. antarctica on the one side and that of C. acutus, C. propinquus and C. citer on the other. Based on the morphology of its gnathobases the copepod species S. longipes, which has to date been found to feed primarily on phytoplankton, mainly ice algae, must also be considered a zooplankton feeder. The investigation showed that M. pygmaeus has gnathobases with surprisingly long and pointed teeth, indicating that this species very probably feeds both on phyto- and on zooplankton organisms. While the mandibular gnathobases of the males of C. propinquus, R. gigas, M. gerlachei and S. longipes have the same morphology as the females of the respective species, in the other four investigated copepod species the males have reduced (C. acutus, C. citer and M. pygmaeus) or completely missing mandibular gnathobases (P. antarctica). The teeth of the gnathobases of all studied species with the exception of M. gerlachei consist of a different material than the remaining parts of the gnathobases. This material seems to be silicate, which probably enhances the stability of the gnathobase teeth.


Phytoplankton Copepod Species Copepodite Stage Zooplankton Organism Central Tooth 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are indebted to K. Beyer and U. Bock for providing assistance with the appropriate application of the scanning electron microscope, T. Bauer for recommending interesting literature concerning the wear of mouthparts, C. Hamm for inspiring discussions improving the manuscript, R. Alheit for the linguistic revision of the manuscript and three anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript. The first author is particularly thankful to K. Lochte for facilitating this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und MeeresforschungBremerhavenGermany

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