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Published in: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 107, No. 40, 2010.

Abstract

In contrast to higher metazoans such as copepods and fish, ctenophores are a basal metazoan lineage possessing a relatively narrow set of sensory-motor capabilities. Yet lobate ctenophores can capture prey at rates comparable to sophisticated predatory copepods and fish, and they are capable of altering the composition of coastal planktonic communities. Here, we demonstrate that the predatory success of the lobate ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi lies in its use of cilia to generate a feeding current that continuously entrains large volumes of fluid, yet is virtually undetectable to its prey. This form of stealth predation enables M. leidyi to feed as a generalist predator capturing prey, including microplankton (approximately 50 μm), copepods (approximately 1 mm), and fish larvae (>3 mm). The efficacy and versatility of this stealth feeding mechanism has enabled M. leidyi to be notoriously destructive as a predator and successful as an invasive species.

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