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Laboratory-made artificial marine snow: a biological model of the real thing


Cylindrical tanks of unfiltered seawater were rotated on a roller table until the particles in the seawater formed aggregates resembling marine snow. During the summer of 1987 comparisons were made between marine snow in field samples from two coastal sites on seven separate dates, and aggregates formed in the laboratory in seawater samples taken on the same dates. Aggregates in field and laboratory samples were photographed and their dimensions were determined. Particulate composition of the aggregates was characterized by the abundance of diatoms, benthic diatoms, diatom frustules, mineral grains, fecal pellets, and fungal spores. Laboratory-prepared aggregates had a significantly greater short axis, and significantly larger calculated volume than field aggregates. Particulate compositions of field aggregates were paralleled by similar changes in the laboratory product. Dry weights of known numbers of aggregates collected on three dates indicated no significant differences in calculated densities or porosities of marine snow formed in the field and in the laboratory. We suggest that this method of forming marine snow in the laboratory may provide researchers with a useful experimental tool.

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Communicated by J. Grassle, Woods Hole

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Shanks, A.L., Edmondson, E.W. Laboratory-made artificial marine snow: a biological model of the real thing. Mar. Biol. 101, 463–470 (1989).

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