Predation on meiofaunal and macrofaunal invertebrates by western sandpipers (Calidris mauri): evidence for dual foraging modes
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Western sandpiper (Calidris mauri) predation was examined by concurrent experiments and direct observations of foraging behaviour on high intertidal mudflats of the Fraser River estuary, British Columbia. Western sandpipers foraged by either “pecking” on the surface (64% of observational time) or probing into sediment (29%). The first experiment (probe-mark method) consisted of collecting small-volume cores (21.2 cm3) of probed (experimental) and non-probed (control) sediment on the tidal flat, following a 22.5-min feeding period. The second experiment (exclosure method) involved deploying exclosures immediately prior to the feeding period and subsequent collection of cores from inside (control) and outside (experimental) the exclosures. Sediment cores were analysed for both macrofaunal and meiofaunal size fractions. Comparisons between macro- and meiofaunal invertebrate densities in experimental and control sediments revealed significant differences, attributed to shorebird predation, for both experiments. The probe-mark experiment detected the removal of large infaunal polychaetes (∼ 20 mm), while the exclosure experiment showed depletion of epifaunal harpacticoid copepods (0.063–0.5 mm). Predation on macrofaunal cumaceans was detected in both experiments. Invertebrates selected by western sandpipers neither fell within traditional infaunal size classifications (macro- vs. meiofauna; 500 μm delineation) nor corresponded to the highest densities of taxa. Rather, inference from experimental results and observations is that western sandpipers forage in two modes, by: (1) surface gleaning of epibenthic copepods and cumaceans in the macro- and meiofaunal size ranges and (2) selective probing for larger infauna, such as polychaetes. These findings were facilitated by the combination of methodologies employed.
KeywordsSediment Core River Estuary Polychaete Tidal Flat Meiofauna
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