Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 12, pp 2451–2460 | Cite as

Influence of flow speed on the functional response of a passive suspension feeder, the spionid polychaete Polydora cornuta

  • Jeff ShimetaEmail author
Original Paper


Passive suspension feeders rely on surrounding flow to deliver food particles to them. Therefore, the classic conception of functional response (feeding rate vs. food concentration) may require modification to account for flow speed as a second independent variable. I compared the functional response of Polydora cornuta at different velocities and determined whether food capture was proportional to particle flux (concentration × velocity). To understand feeding responses at a mechanistic level, I measured the functional responses in terms of contact and capture rates and determined particle retention efficiency. Experiments were run separately with two sizes of food particles, and with juvenile or adult worms. For both worm sizes and both particle sizes, capture rate in weak flow was directly related to concentration, but in strong flow it was constant. Worms were therefore unable to benefit from abundant food when in strong flow. The critical velocity at which the capture rate became constant was lower for adult worms than for juvenile worms, and it was lower for small particles than for large particles. Retention efficiency was constant among all treatments, and the results for contact rate were essentially the same as for capture rate. Therefore, the mechanics of particle contact must explain the effects of velocity on the functional response. Contact rate was not a constant proportion of particle flux; treatments with similar fluxes yielded different contact rates depending on the strength of flow. The results appeared to be caused by a velocity-induced behavioral change in appendage posture that affects contact rates: in moderate flow, worms form their feeding palps into helical coils, which they tighten as the velocity increases. I suggest this behavior constrains suspension feeding rates and the mechanical selection between particle sizes when worms are in strong flow, and that the effect changes with ontogeny. Because the results are consistent with patterns in measured growth rates of P. cornuta, I hypothesize that this influence of velocity on the functional response can constrain growth and population dynamics in this species.


Functional Response Adult Worm Capture Rate Particle Flux Contact Rate 



This research was funded by the US National Science Foundation (OCE-9909241) and Franklin & Marshall College. Brian Hentschel provided valuable assistance and advice. Special thanks to F&M College undergraduate students who helped to run experiments and analyze videotapes: Mark Binkley, Joanna Bond, Mara Chomsky, Lucas Herman, Karen Hippe, Kevin Kaplan, Elizabeth Miller and Peter Witucki. The manuscript was improved with comments from two anonymous reviewers.


  1. Anthony KRN (1997) Prey capture by the sea anemone Metridium senile (L.): effects of body size, flow regime, and upstream neighbors. Biol Bull 192:73–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Best BA (1988) Passive suspension feeding in a sea pen: effects of ambient flow on volume flow rate and filtering efficiency. Biol Bull 175:332–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bock MJ, Miller DC (1996) Fluid flow and suspended particulates as determinants of polychaete feeding behavior. J Mar Res 54:565–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bolam SG, Fernandes TF (2003) Dense aggregations of Pygospio elegans (Claparede): effect on macrofaunal community structure and sediments. J Sea Res 49:171–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cinar ME, Ergen Z, Dagli E et al (2005) Alien species of spionid polychaetes (Streblospio gynobranchiata and Polydora cornuta) in Izmar Bay, eastern Mediterranean. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 85:821–827CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dauer DM (1983) Functional morphology and feeding behavior of Scololepis squamata (Polychaeta: Spionidae). Mar Biol 77:279–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dauer DM (1984) Functional morphology and feeding behavior of Streblospio benedicti (Polychaeta; Spionidae). In: Hutchings PA (ed) Proceedings of the first international polychaete conference. The Linnean Society of New South Wales, Sydney, pp 418–429Google Scholar
  8. Dauer DM, Maybury CA, Ewing RM (1981) Feeding behavior and general ecology of several spionid polychaetes from the Chesapeake Bay. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 54:21–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Finelli CM, Hart DD, Merz RA (2002) Stream insects as passive suspension feeders: effects of velocity and food concentration on feeding performance. Oecologia 131:145–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Forest DL, Lindsay SM (2008) Observations of serotonin and FMRFamide-like immunoreactivity in palp sensory structures and the anterior nervous system of spionid polychaetes. J Morph 269:544–551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Grant J, Bathmann UV, Mills EL (1986) The interaction between benthic diatom films and sediment transport. Est Coast Shelf Sci 23:225–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hentschel BT, Harper NS (2006) Effects of simulated sublethal predation on the growth and regeneration rates of a spionid polychaete in laboratory flumes. Mar Biol 149:1175–1183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hentschel BT, Larson AA (2005) Growth rates of interface-feeding polychaetes: combined effects of flow speed and suspended food concentration. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 293:119–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hentschel BT, Larson AA (2006) Hydrodynamic mediation of density-dependent growth and adult–juvenile interactions of a spionid polychaete. Limnol Oceanogr 51:1031–1037CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Holling CS (1959) The components of predation as revealed by a study of small-mammal predation of the European pine sawfly. Can Entomol 91:293–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jeschke JM, Kopp M, Tollrian R (2004) Consumer-food systems: why type I functional responses are exclusive to filter feeders. Biol Rev 79:337–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Leising AW, Gentleman WC, Frost BW (2003) The threshold feeding response of microzooplankton within Pacific high-nitrate low-chlorophyll ecosystem models under steady and variable iron input. Deep Sea Res 50:2877–2894CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Leonard AB, Strickler JR, Holland ND (1988) Effects of current speed on filtration during suspension feeding in Oligometra serripinna (Echinodermata: Crinoidae). Mar Biol 97:111–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Levin LA (1981) Dispersion, feeding behavior and competition in two spionid polychaetes. J Mar Res 39:99–117Google Scholar
  20. Lindsay SM, Jackson JL, Forest DL (2008) Morphology of anterior regeneration in two spionid polychaete species: implications for feeding efficiency. Invert Biol 127:65–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Miller DC, Sternberg RW (1988) Field measurements of the fluid and sediment-dynamic environment of a benthic deposit feeder. J Mar Res 46:771–796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Miller DC, Bock MJ, Turner EJ (1992) Deposit and suspension feeding in oscillatory flows and sediment fluxes. J Mar Res 50:489–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Muschenheim DK (1987) The role of hydrodynamic sorting of seston in the nutrition of a benthic suspension feeder, Spiosetosa (Polychaeta: Spionidae). Biol Oceanogr 4:265–288Google Scholar
  24. Patterson MR (1984) Patterns of whole colony prey capture in the octocoral, Alcyonium siderium. Biol Bull 167:613–629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pile AJ, Lipcius RN, van Montfrans J, Orth RJ (1996) Density-dependent settler–recruit-juvenile relationships in blue crabs. Ecol Monogr 66:277–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Qian PY, Chia FS (1997) Structure of feeding palps and feeding behavior of the spionid polychaete Polydora polybranchia. Bull Mar Sci 60:502–511Google Scholar
  27. Real LA (1977) The kinetics of functional response. Am Nat 111:289–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rice SA, Karl S, Rice KA (2008) The Polydora cornuta complex (Annelida: Polychaeta) contains populations that are reproductively isolated and genetically distinct. Invert Biol 127:45–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Riisgård HU, Randløv A (1981) Energy budgets, growth and filtration rates in Mytilus edulis at different algal concentrations. Mar Biol 61:227–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sebesvari Z, Esser F, Harder T (2006) Sediment-associated cues for larval settlement of the infaunal spionid polychaetes Polydora cornuta and Streblospio benedicti. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 337:109–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Shimeta J, Jumars PA (1991) Physical mechanisms and rates of particle capture by suspension-feeders. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev 29:191–257Google Scholar
  32. Shimeta J, Koehl MAR (1997) Mechanisms of particle selection by tentaculate suspension feeders during encounter, retention, and handling. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 209:47–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Shimeta J, Sisson JD (1999) Taxon-specific tidal resuspension of protists into the subtidal benthic boundary layer of a coastal embayment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 177:51–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shimeta J, Amos CL, Beaulieu S, Katz SL (2003) Resuspension of benthic protists at subtidal coastal sites with differing sediment composition. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 259:103–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shimeta J, Witucki PF, Hippe KR (2004) Influences of nutritional state and temperature on suspension-feeding rates and mechanics in the spionid polychaete Polydora cornuta. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 280:173–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Taghon GL (1984) Suspension feeding in spionid polychaetes; optimization of particle capture efficiency. Eos 65:925Google Scholar
  37. Taghon GL, Greene RR (1992) Utilization of deposited and suspended particulate matter by benthic “interface feeders”. Limnol Oceanogr 37:1370–1391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Taghon GL, Nowell ARM, Jumars PA (1980) Induction of suspension feeding in spionid polychaetes by high particle fluxes. Science 210:562–564CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Turner EJ, Miller DC (1991) Behavior of a passive suspension-feeder (Spiochaetopterus oculatus (Webster)) under oscillatory flow. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 149:123–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Whitlatch RB, Lohrer AM, Thrush SF et al (1998) Scale-dependent benthic recolonization dynamics: life stage-based dispersal and demographic consequences. Hydrobiologia 376:217–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zhang Y (2000) Effects of fan morphology and habitat on feeding performance of blackfly larvae. Arch Hydrobiol 149:365–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biology DepartmentFranklin & Marshall CollegeLancasterUSA
  2. 2.School of Applied SciencesRMIT UniversityBundooraAustralia

Personalised recommendations