Marine Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 39–48 | Cite as

On detritus as a food source for pelagic filter-feeders



Data on the amount of organic detritus within the particle size fraction 1 to 150 μ are presented for the Western Kiel Bight. Grouped into a mixed surface layer and a stratified lower layer in accordance with the main hydrographic features of the Western Baltic Sea, the rounded-off values show a seasonal variation between 100 and 600 mg m-3 expressed as dry weight of organic matter. The overall average for both layers is about 200 mg m-3. Organic detritus thus comprises more than 40% of total organic matter in the above size class, which is the class most easily accessible to the relatively small filter-feeders in this area. Attempting to trace the origin of organic detritus, a positive correlation to phytoplankton standing stock was found in some cases, suggesting the predominance of autochthonous detritus. Proceeding from the assumption that pelagic filter-feeders select their food mainly by size and not by taste, it is concluded that organic detritus plays an important role as a supplementary food source, being ingested together with phytoplankton and small nonmotile heterotrophs. The nutritive value of detritus is increased by the adsorption of dissolved organic matter and above all through the subsequent colonization by bacteria, which utilize the dissolved substances. Detritus particles serving as a substratum for bacteria thus form a means whereby dissolved organic substances reenter the food chain. The ingestion of detritus by filter-feeders is, therefore, thought to be instrumental in increasing the effectivity of energy transfer from the primary to the secondary food-chain level.


Phytoplankton Detritus Dissolve Organic Matter Autochthonous Particle Size Fraction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Lenz
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Meereskunde an der Universität KielKielGermany (FRG)

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