Arctic sea ice as feeding ground for amphipods – food sources and strategies
The amphipod species Gammarus wilkitzkii, Apherusa glacialis, Onisimus nanseni and O. glacialis live permanently associated with the Arctic sea ice. Qualitative and semi-quantitative investigations of gut contents and faeces showed that all four species use detritus as the main food source. Detrital lumps from the underside of sea ice had the same item composition as amphipod gut contents and faeces. Crustacean remains and ice algae were additional food items, but overall they were quantitatively less important. All species are omnivorous; however, differences in gut contents, behavioural observations and functional–morphological studies of the mandibles suggest a differentiation within this feeding strategy. G. wilkitzkii is a detritivorous-carnivorous-necrophagous-suspension-feeding species and shows the most complex feeding strategy. O. nanseni and O. glacialis are predominantly detritivorous-necrophagous, whereas A. glacialis is characterised as a more herbivorous-detritivorous species. By using a variety of the available food sources under Arctic sea ice, the amphipods are well adapted to the under-ice habitat and are less influenced by temporal and spatial variations. Furthermore, the wide food spectrum of all four species reduces the intra- and interspecific competition in a habitat where certain food sources are limited or only seasonally available.
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