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Biology of Salpa thompsoni at the Chatham Rise, New Zealand: demography, growth, and diel vertical migration

Abstract

The abundant pelagic tunicate Salpa thompsoni is a major grazer in the Southern Ocean (SO) with high ingestion rates, fast-sinking faecal pellets, and the potential to rapidly grow and form dense blooms. We investigated the length-frequency distribution, maturity stage composition, growth, development speed, and size-specific diel vertical abundance patterns at one of the northernmost habitats of S. thompsoni (Chatham Rise, east of New Zealand, ~ 44°S 178°E). By observing the in situ growth of distinct size cohorts and ex situ on-board experiments, relative growth was estimated for 6–10 mm blastozooids to be between 8.8–11.7% d−1 at ambient temperatures of 10 °C, with good agreement between our cohort-based field estimates and ex situ growth chambers. Transition times between development stages were estimated to be 3.8 ± 1.5 days, allowing for the succession from newly released aggregate chain to functional male blastozooid within 23 days. Integrative Bongo tows in the upper 200 m showed that S. thompsoni not only have daytime-dependent vertical abundance patterns, but also that these are size-specific, with medium-sized blastozooids and large oozooids contributing most to the elevated values during the night. The present study highlights the need for more in-depth biological studies of S. thompsoni at lower latitudes, which will help in understanding their increasingly structuring role in a gradually warming SO.

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Fig. 1

modified from Sutton (2001): SC Southland Current, ECC East Cape Current

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Data availability

All data were deposited in PANGAEA.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the captain and crew of the R/V Tangaroa for their efforts to collect the specimens, Rob Steward and Christian K. Fender, who helped with staging and measuring of Salpa thompsoni specimens, and Karen Selph, who made flow cytometry measurements. We also thank Michael J. Miller for assistance to improve an earlier version of the manuscript and three anonymous reviewers for constructive comments made on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Funding

This study formed part of the ‘Salp Particle expOrt and Ocean Productivity’ (SalpPOOP) project and was made possible by funds from MBIE, the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund to M. Décima, NIWA and NSF awards #OCE-1756610 and #OCE-1756465 to M. Stukel and K. Selph, for ship time and financial support. This research was also partially supported by the NSERC Discovery Grant RGPIN-2014–05107 to E. A. Pakhomov. F. Lüskow was supported by an IDF scholarship granted by the University of British Columbia.

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Lüskow, F., Pakhomov, E.A., Stukel, M.R. et al. Biology of Salpa thompsoni at the Chatham Rise, New Zealand: demography, growth, and diel vertical migration. Mar Biol 167, 175 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-020-03775-x

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