Epizoic acoelomorph flatworms compete with their coral host for zooplankton
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It is well known that many scleractinian coral species host epizoic acoelomorph flatworms, both in captivity and in situ, with potential negative effects such as light-shading and reduced resistance against environmental impacts and pathogens (Naumann et al. 2010). Here, we show that epizoic acoelomorph flatworms (Waminoa sp.) compete with their coral host for zooplankton under laboratory conditions.
Single polyps (n = 5) of the scleractinian coral Galaxea fascicularis were incubated in a flow cell for 30 min together with Artemia nauplii (10,000 L−1), and their feeding activities were recorded.
Although the competitive pressure exerted by flatworms may seem moderate when taking the host feeding rate in the laboratory (52.8 ± 41.9 nauplii polyp−1 30 min−1) into account, it could be significant at in situ plankton concentrations which are four orders of magnitude lower than those used here (Palardy et al. 2006). We conclude that the presence of epizoic acoelomorph flatworms may affect long-term coral growth and health. These results have implications for our understanding of coral host-symbiont interactions and benthic-pelagic coupling.
This work was funded by Wageningen University.
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