Quantifying the feeding behavior and trophic impact of a widespread oceanic ctenophore
Oceanic ctenophores are widespread predators on pelagic zooplankton. While data on coastal ctenophores often show strong top-down predatory impacts in their ecosystems, differing morphologies, prey capture mechanisms and behaviors of oceanic species preclude the use of coastal data to draw conclusion on oceanic species. We used high-resolution imaging methods both in situ and in the laboratory to quantify interactions of Ocyropsis spp. with natural copepod prey. We confirmed that Ocyropsis spp. uses muscular lobe contraction and a prehensile mouth to capture prey, which is unique amongst ctenophores. This feeding mechanism results in high overall capture success whether encountering single or multiple prey between the lobes (71 and 81% respectively). However, multiple prey require several attempts for successful capture whereas single prey are often captured on the first attempt. Digestion of adult copepods takes 44 min at 25 °C and does not vary with ctenophore size. At high natural densities, we estimate that Ocyropsis spp. consume up to 40% of the daily copepod standing stock. This suggests that, when numerous, Ocyropsis spp. can exert strong top-down control on oceanic copepod populations. At more common densities, these animals consume only a small proportion of the daily copepod standing stock. However, compared to data from pelagic fishes and oceanic medusae, Ocyropsis spp. appears to be the dominant copepod predator in this habitat.
Potter, B., Corrales-Ugalde, M., Townsend, J., Colin, S., Sutherland, K., Costello, J., Collins, R., & Gemmell, B. (2023). Quantifying the feeding behavior and trophic impact of a widespread oceanic ctenophore. Scientific Reports, 13 (1) https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-27955-z