Coral Reefs

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 549–560 | Cite as

Natural heterotrophic feeding by a temperate octocoral with symbiotic zooxanthellae: a contribution to understanding the mechanisms of die-off events

  • Rafel Coma
  • Eduard Llorente-Llurba
  • Eduard Serrano
  • Josep-Maria Gili
  • Marta Ribes
Report

Abstract

Octocorals are among the most emblematic and representative organisms of sublittoral communities in both tropical and temperate seas. Eunicella singularis is the most abundant gorgonian in shallow waters and the only gorgonian with symbiotic zooxanthellae in the Mediterranean Sea. We studied the natural diet and prey capture rate of this species over an annual cycle and characterized prey digestion time over the natural temperature regime. The species captured zooplankton prey between 40 and 920 µm. A mean content of 0.14 ± 0.02 prey polyp−1 was observed throughout the year. The strong pattern of decrease in digestion time with temperature increase (from 25 h at 13 °C to 8 h at 21 °C) allowed us to estimate that the prey capture rate was 0.017 ± 0.002 prey polyp−1 h−1 (mean ± SE); the ingestion rate exhibited a seasonal pattern with higher values in spring (0.007 µg C polyp−1 h−1). Feeding on zooplankton had a low contribution to the respiratory expenses of E. singularis except in early spring. Then, heterotrophic nutrition in the natural environment seems unable to meet basal metabolic requirements, especially in summer and fall. This result, in conjunction with the documented collapse of photosynthetic capacity above a warm temperature threshold, indicates the occurrence of a resource acquisition limitation that may play a role in the repeated summer die-off events of the species.

Keywords

Natural diet Capture rate Digestion time Feeding ecology Gorgonians Eunicella singularis 

Supplementary material

338_2015_1281_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (656 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 656 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafel Coma
    • 1
  • Eduard Llorente-Llurba
    • 2
  • Eduard Serrano
    • 1
  • Josep-Maria Gili
    • 2
  • Marta Ribes
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CEAB-CSIC)BlanesSpain
  2. 2.Institut de Ciències del Mar-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (ICM-CSIC)BarcelonaSpain

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