Marine Biology

, Volume 160, Issue 4, pp 793–804 | Cite as

Estimating digestion time in gelatinous predators: a methodological comparison with the scyphomedusa Aurelia aurita

  • Tania FitzGeorge-Balfour
  • Andrew G. Hirst
  • Cathy H. Lucas
  • Jamie Craggs
  • Emma J. Whelan
  • Shorok Mombrikotb
Original Paper


In order to quantify the trophic impact of gelatinous predators, digestion time estimates are commonly applied to counts of prey in the guts. Three primary approaches are used, the Manual-feeding, Natural-feeding and Steady-state methods; these differ in methodology and their underlying assumptions. The criteria used to define the end-point of digestion, and the resolution at which digestion progress is observed, also vary across studies. To understand the impact of such differences, we estimate digestion times of the scyphomedusa Aurelia aurita fed adult females of the copepod Acartia tonsa using these various approaches. We find ~fourfold differences which can be attributed to bias towards the slowest rates of digestion by some end-point criteria, and overestimation from low observation resolution. Artificial manipulation and the degree to which swimming and feeding behaviour are natural may also influence estimates. We provide recommendations for those quantifying digestion times of Aurelia aurita medusae and gelatinous predators.


Prey Item Prey Type Digestion Time Complete Digestion Gastric Cavity 
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.



We wish to thank all staff at the Horniman Museum, London, for their help with the supply of Aurelia aurita. Hoba Saleh and Jack Forster provided invaluable assistance with the experimental work and we are grateful to Guillaume Drillet (DIFR) for the supply of Acartia tonsa eggs. Comments and suggestions by Mike Dawson, Jennifer E. Purcell and anonymous referees have greatly improved this manuscript. This study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, Grant number NE/G005516/1, to AGH and CHL.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

We declare the experiments comply with the current laws of the country (UK) in which they were performed.

Supplementary material

227_2012_2134_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (195 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 195 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tania FitzGeorge-Balfour
    • 1
  • Andrew G. Hirst
    • 1
  • Cathy H. Lucas
    • 2
  • Jamie Craggs
    • 3
  • Emma J. Whelan
    • 2
  • Shorok Mombrikotb
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological and Chemical SciencesQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.National Oceanography Centre, School of Ocean and Earth ScienceUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Horniman Museum and AquariumLondonUK

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