Coral Reefs

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 311–323 | Cite as

Particulate matter ingestion and associated nitrogen uptake by four species of scleractinian corals

  • Matthew M. Mills
  • Fredric Lipschultz
  • Kenneth P. Sebens


The ingestion of two size classes of natural particulate matter (PM) and the uptake of the associated nitrogen by four species of scleractinian corals was measured using the stable isotopic tracer 15N. PM collected in sediment traps was split into <63 and >105 µm size fractions and labeled with (15N-NH4)2SO4. Siderastrea radians, Montastrea franksi, Diploria strigosa, and Madracis mirabilis were incubated in flow chambers with the labeled PM in suspension (<63 µm), or deposited onto coral surfaces (>105 µm). Ingestion was detected for all four species (98–600 µg Dry wt. cm–2 h–1), but only for D. strigosa was any difference detected between suspended and deposited PM. Only the three mounding species, S. radians, M. franksi, and D. strigosa showed uptake of suspended and deposited particulate nitrogen (PN); whereas, the branched coral M. mirabilis had no measurable PN uptake. Only coral host tissues were enriched with 15N, with no tracer detected in the symbiotic zooxanthellae. Uptake rates ranged from as low as 0.80 µg PN cm–2 h–1 in S. radians to as high as 13 µg PN cm–2 h–1 in M. franksi. M. franksi had significantly higher uptake rates than S. radians (ANOVA, p<0.05), while D. strigosa had a statistically similar uptake rate compared to both species. These results are the first to compare scleractinian ingestion of nitrogen associated with suspended and deposited particulate matter, and demonstrate that the use of PM as a nitrogen source varies with species and colony morphology.


Scleractinian Suspended and deposited particulate matter Nitrogen Bermuda 



We thank Brian Badgley, Richard Owen, Greg Piniak, Robbie Smith, and all of the BERP Lab at BBSR for their assistance. We are also grateful to the Analytical Services Laboratory at Horn Point Laboratory for nutrient analysis. Lastly, we thank M Berg, K Heidelberg, B Badgley, and two anonymous reviewers for comments. This research was supported by NSF Grant OCE-9302966 to KP Sebens and by BBSR’s Munson Marine Graduate Fellowship and Stone Fellowship awarded to MM Mills.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew M. Mills
    • 1
  • Fredric Lipschultz
    • 2
  • Kenneth P. Sebens
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Marine BiochemistryIFM-Geomas Leibniz-Institut für Meereswissenschaften KielGermany
  2. 2.Bermuda Biological Station for Research Inc.St. George’sBermuda
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  4. 4.College of Science and MathematicsUniversity of MassachusettsBostonUSA

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