Small-Scale Features of Marine Sediments and Their Importance to the Study of Deposit Feeding

  • Les Watling
Part of the Lecture Notes on Coastal and Estuarine Studies book series (COASTAL, volume 31)


Studies on deposit feeders usually involve parallel samples of both the animal of interest and the sediment in which it is living. To most benthic ecologists, this means that a ’scoopful’ of sediment from the sample is removed to the laboratory for analysis of organic carbon and nitrogen, various measures of the mineral fraction, and other bulk properties. To the organism, features of the sediment such as total weight of ’organic carbon’ per gram dry weight of inorganic material are probably not perceivable. On the other hand, the quantity (number of mouthfuls?) of sediment needed in order to obtain sufficient amounts of digestible organic material is probably detected via metabolic feedback. If the processes governing the successful maintenance of deposit feeder populations are to be understood, bulk measures of sediment properties must be augmented by methods that will give information relatable to the scale of the organisms under study (see Cammen, this volume). This recommendation was made by Ralph Johnson in 1974, but it has scarcely been heeded. He urged benthic ecologists to devise measures of the food resource and its partitioning that were relevant to the requirements and activities of benthic animals. In order to do this, biological and chemical techniques must be developed that investigate the environment at the correct spatial scale.


Thin Section Marine Sediment Pore Space Fecal Pellet Deposit Feeder 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Les Watling
    • 1
  1. 1.Darling CenterUniversity of MaineWalpoleUSA

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