Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 5, pp 1049–1056 | Cite as

Feeding behavior of the ctenophore Thalassocalyce inconstans: revision of anatomy of the order Thalassocalycida

  • Holly F. SwiftEmail author
  • William M. Hamner
  • Bruce H. Robison
  • Laurence P. Madin
Original Paper


Behavioral observations using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in the Gulf of California in March, 2003, provided insights into the vertical distribution, feeding and anatomy of the rare and delicate ctenophore Thalassocalyce inconstans. Additional archived ROV video records from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute of 288 sightings of T. inconstans and 2,437 individual observations of euphausiids in the Gulf of California and Monterey Canyon between 1989 and 2005 were examined to determine ctenophore and euphausiid prey depth distributions with respect to temperature and dissolved oxygen concentration [dO]. In the Gulf of California most ctenophores (96.9%) were above 350 m, the top of the oxygen minimum layer. In Monterey Canyon the ctenophores were more widely distributed throughout the water column, including the hypoxic zone, to depths as great as 3,500 m. Computer-aided behavioral analysis of two video records of the capture of euphausiids by T. inconstans showed that the ctenophore contracted its bell almost instantly (0.5 s), transforming its flattened, hemispherical resting shape into a closed bi-lobed globe in which seawater and prey were engulfed. Euphausiids entrapped within the globe displayed a previously undescribed escape response for krill (‘probing behavior’), in which they hovered and gently probed the inner surfaces of the globe with antennae without stimulating further contraction by the ctenophore. Such rapid bell contraction could be effected only by a peripheral sphincter muscle even though the presence of circumferential ring musculature was unknown for the Phylum Ctenophora. Thereafter, several live T. inconstans were collected by hand off Barbados and microscopic observations confirmed that assumption.


Video Sequence Escape Response Remotely Operate Vehicle Ring Muscle Generic Escape 
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 thank MBARI for the use of its archives and video software. The help of George Matsumoto, Tony Moss, and Jack Costello, who read early versions of this manuscript, and Mike Dawson, who assisted with later drafts, is greatly appreciated. George Matsumoto and Kevin Raskoff were invaluable in assisting with questions about MBARI archives and data. We thank the pilots of MBARI’s ROVs, Tiburon and Ventana, and the crews of the support ships R/V Western Flyer and R/V Point Lobos. Supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and NOAA Grant #NA06OAR4600091.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2009

Open AccessThis is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Holly F. Swift
    • 1
    Email author
  • William M. Hamner
    • 2
  • Bruce H. Robison
    • 3
  • Laurence P. Madin
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Natural SciencesUniversity of California MercedMercedUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Monterey Bay Aquarium Research InstituteMoss LandingUSA
  4. 4.Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA

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