Shifting abundance of the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi and the implications for larval bivalve mortality
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- McNamara, M.E., Lonsdale, D.J. & Cerrato, R.M. Mar Biol (2010) 157: 401. doi:10.1007/s00227-009-1327-6
Along the mid-Atlantic coast of the US, the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi (Agassiz) appears to be increasing in abundance and undergoing shifts in its historical seasonal distribution. We provide new data on shifting ctenophore abundance in Long Island estuaries and its implications for top-down control of the plankton community. Peak mean biovolume estimates of M. leidyi in Long Island estuaries in 2006 revealed ctenophore abundance values that were a factor of two to five times greater than previous studies conducted two decades ago. Furthermore, peak M. leidyi densities in 2006 occurred 2–3 months earlier than previously documented, suggesting a shift in the seasonal maxima of M. leidyi. Application of daily ingestion rates to zooplankton abundance indicates that, at its highest densities M. leidyi can remove an overall average of 20–89% per day of bivalve veligers and other zooplankton taxa, including adult copepods, nauplii, and tintinnids. Increasing ctenophore abundance, especially during a period when they were not historically abundant (i.e., June) may have significant consequences for species which spawn at this time. For example, current populations of M. leidyi represent a major source of larval mortality for bivalves which may inhibit recovery of shellfish populations and reinforce their low abundance state in Long Island estuaries.