Feeding behaviour in the Antarctic fairy shrimp, Branchinecta gaini
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Direct observations of feeding behaviour in Branchinecta gaini are described. B. gaini possess sophisticated food manipulation behaviours, using their abdominal appendages to ‘scrape’ at and carry away food items. Scraping behaviour was employed by animals for both detrital feeding and the cannibalisation of dead conspecifics. In the absence of like observations from other non-raptatory species of Branchinecta, it appears that adults of B. gaini occupy an intermediary position between species that feed exclusively on vegetative and detrital material and those (e.g. B. gigas, B. ferox, B. raptor) that are known to be carnivorous. In an Antarctic context, particularly, specialisation towards carnivory would have little adaptive value, while expansion of diet breadth via increased manipulative and digestive flexibility would, on the other hand, be advantageous. These behaviours, moreover, mean that B. gaini plays an active role in the breakdown and recycling of its own nutrient base.
KeywordsAnostraca Detritus Dietary flexibility Food manipulation
Research was carried out while TCH was an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Birmingham. Thanks to Jeff Bale and Roger Worland. Fieldwork was funded by a CGS Grant (7/26) from the NERC Antarctic Funding Initiative.
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