Marine Biology

, Volume 157, Issue 2, pp 401–412 | Cite as

Shifting abundance of the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi and the implications for larval bivalve mortality

  • Marianne E. McNamara
  • Darcy J. LonsdaleEmail author
  • Robert M. Cerrato
Original Paper


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.


Bivalve Digestion Time Zooplankton Abundance Hard Clam Zooplankton Taxon 
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Support for this project was provided by New York Sea Grant, Project R/FBM-32. Boat time was generously provided by The Nature Conservancy, Long Island Chapter. We thank C. Clapp, A. Stark, J. Pan, T. Duffy, L. Perino, A. Webb, L. Holt, G. Wagner, J. Smith, S. Bell, A. Sabrosky, and R. Stern for their field assistance. We also wish to thank M. Patricio and G. Rivera at Cornell Cooperative Extension for very kindly providing bivalve larvae for use in the PCR reactions and M. Doall for providing condition indices. This is contribution #1387 of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University. All experiments conducted comply with current national and state laws.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marianne E. McNamara
    • 1
  • Darcy J. Lonsdale
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert M. Cerrato
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Marine and Atmospheric ScienceStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA

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