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Published in: Marine Bilogy, Vol.121, Issue 2, 1994.


Although medusan predators play demonstrably important roles in a variety of marine ecosystems, the mechanics of prey capture and, hence, prey selection, have remained poorly defined. A review of the literature describing the commonly studied medusa Aurelia aurita (Linnaeus 1758) reveals no distinct patterns of prey selectivity and suggests that A. aurita is a generalist and feeds unselectively upon available zooplankton. We examined the mechanics of prey capture by A. aurita using video methods to record body and fluid motions. Medusae were collected between February and June in 1990 and 1991 from Woods Hole, Massachusetts and Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, USA. Tentaculate A. aurita create fluid motions during swimming which entrain prey and bring them into contact with tentacles. We suggest that this mechanism dominates prey selection by A. aurita. In this case, we predict that medusae of a specific diameter will positively select prey with escape speeds slower than the flow velocities at their bell margins. Negatively selected prey escape faster than the medusan flow velocity draws them to capture surfaces. Faster prey will be captured by larger medusac because flow field velocity is a function of bell diameter. On the basis of prey escape velocities and flow field velocities of A. aurita with diameters of 0.8 to 7.1 cm, we predict that A. aurita will select zooplankton such as barnacle nauplii and some slow swimming hydromedusae, while faster copepods will be negatively selected.

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