Netherland Journal of Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 181–191 | Cite as

The feeding rates ofPleurobrachia (ctenophora) andSagitta (chaetognatha), with notes on the potential seasonal role of planktonic predators in the dynamics of north sea zooplankton communities

  • C. L. J. Frid
  • L. C. Newton
  • J. A. Williams


The zooplankton off the north-east coast of England has been the subject of a number of studies focusing on its productivity. It has also been shown to be representative of the zooplankton of much of the western North Sea. The community contains a number of predatory species, three of which are widely described as ‘voracious’, the ctenophorePleurobrachia pileus, the chaetognathSagitta elegans and the hyperiid amphipodThemisto compressa (≡ Parathemisto gaudichaudi). This study investigates the role of these planktonic predators in this community, with special reference to the seasonal changes in predation pressure.

The functional response ofPleurobrachia pileus feeding onAcartia was determined from laboratory experiments. It was found to be linear at prey densities typical of UK coastal waters, although the linear relationship appeared to break down at low and high prey densities.

Feeding rate data forSagitta elegans were obtained from gut content analysis and published laboratory derived estimates of digestion time. Of the 1,789 individuals examined 198 (11.1%) had food remains in the gut. A linear relationship betweenSagitta length and prey size was established and the daily feeding rate ofSagitta elegans was estimated to be 0.4 prey items d−1 ind−1.

For comparative purposes, the proportion of the copepod standing stock removed bySagitta elegans, Pleurobrachia pileus andThemisto gaudichaudi was estimated for each month of the year. From this model it was shown thatThemisto applied the most predation pressure, andSagitta elegans applied the least predation pressure of the three planktonic predators considered. The impact ofPleurobrachia will be to a large extent offset due to its peak of seasonal abundance coinciding with the zooplankton peak in the summer.


ctenophore Pleurobrachia pileus chaetognath Sagitta elegans predation functional response seasonal impact 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. L. J. Frid
    • 1
  • L. C. Newton
    • 1
  • J. A. Williams
    • 2
  1. 1.Dove Marine LaboratoryUniversity of Newcastle upon TyneTyne and WearUK
  2. 2.Dept. of OceanographyThe UniversitySouthamptonUK

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