Ecological success of the cladoceran Penilia avirostris in the marine environment: feeding performance, gross growth efficiencies and life history
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- Atienza, D., Calbet, A., Saiz, E. et al. Mar Biol (2007) 151: 1385. doi:10.1007/s00227-006-0578-8
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Marine cladocerans are important contributors to the zooplankton community of tropical and temperate coastal ecosystems during the warmer months, when they show explosive population growth. Despite this fact, little information is available on their ecology compared with the extensive studies on their freshwater relatives. The main objective of this study was to determine the in situ feeding and growth rates, and life history parameters of Penilia avirostris in São Sebastião Bay (Brazil) during austral summer 2004, as a premise to understand the advantages of this cladoceran in oligotrophic waters. Culture development experiments, monitored for a period of 12 days, showed that maximum juvenile release occurred after 2 days, and that the development duration of a complete cohort was around 9 days. From bottle incubation grazing experiments, significant ingestion rates upon flagellates, ciliates, dinoflagellates and diatoms were detected. Flagellates were the most important contributors to P. avirostris diet (ca. 80%). P. avirostris ingested between 28 and 97% of its own carbon biomass per day (daily ration) and individual growth rates of this marine cladoceran (0.10–0.24 d−1) increased with prey availability. The combination of ingestion rates of natural prey and growth rates provided gross growth efficiencies (GGE) of 15–53%, on a carbon basis. Our results suggest that P. avirostris has similar GGE to copepods, although at low food conditions the values for the marine cladocerans seems slightly higher. However, this characteristic alone does not explain the explosive growth and community dominance shown by P. avirostris. Therefore, other traits related to the reproductive biology of the species, such as short generation time, parthenogenetic reproduction, and continuous somatic growth, seems to be mostly responsible for the success of P. avirostris in many marine ecosystems during their seasonal occurrence.