Trophic ecology of two cold-water coral species from the Mediterranean Sea revealed by lipid biomarkers and compound-specific isotope analyses
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Scleractinian cold-water corals (CWC) act as key ecosystem engineers in deep-sea reef environments worldwide. However, our current understanding of their trophic ecology is still limited, particularly in understudied temperate oceanic regions such as the Mediterranean Sea. Hence, this study investigated the trophic ecology of the CWC Desmophyllum dianthus and Madrepora oculata by employing lipid biomarker techniques and compound-specific isotope analyses on coral tissues, suspended particulate organic matter (sPOM), and surface sediment sampled in a Mediterranean CWC habitat. CWC exhibited high contents of poly- and monounsaturated fatty acids (FA) (≥49 and 32 % of FA, respectively) and cholesterol (≥67 % of sterols), while sPOM and sediment samples were enriched in saturated FA (≥44 % of FA) and sitosterol (≥35 % of sterols). CWC contained some rare very long-chained polyunsaturated FA (>C22) and ergosterol absent in sPOM and sediment samples. Our results indicate that Mediterranean CWC mainly consume living food items, rather than detrital sPOM or resuspended sediment, and provide evidence for preferred feeding on omnivorous and carnivorous zooplankton. Overall, these findings provide new insights to the trophic ecology of two common CWC from the Mediterranean Sea.
KeywordsDesmophyllum dianthus Madrepora oculata Suspended particulate organic matter Sediment Fatty acids and alcohols Sterols
This research was supported by the Prince Albert II Foundation (COMP project), the IAEA and the government of the Principality of Monaco. We are grateful to masters, crew, and colleagues on-board RV Urania during mission MEDCOR, with special thanks to C. Maier (LOV Villefranche) and L. Angeletti (ISMAR-CNR). Partial funding and ship time was provided by CNR, the FP-VII collaborative projects HERMIONE (Contract Number 226354), and COCONET (Grant Agreement No. 287844) of the European Commission; this research contributes to RITMARE project. This is ISMAR-Bologna Scientific Contribution Number 1805. The IAEA is grateful for the support provided to the Environment Laboratories by the Government of the Principality of Monaco. We thank the topic editor and four anonymous reviewers for their help in improving the manuscript.
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