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INFLUENCE OF CURRENT SPEED, SUBSTRATE, AND PLANKTON ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF SUSPENSION FEEDERS IN MO’OREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

  • Author(s): Hann, Courtney Helen
  • Advisor(s): Resh, Vincent
  • Roderick, George
  • Lipps, Jere
  • Kirch, Patrick
  • et al.
Abstract

Suspension feeders are sessile marine organisms dependent on plankton and organic particles transported by the water column for food. This study focused on the distribution of four suspension feeders (Dendropoma maxima, Spirobranchus giganteus, Heteractis magnifica, and Tridacna maxima) in Mo’orea, French Polynesia based on current, suspended particle abundance, and substrate type. Both D. maxima and S. giganteus were more frequently present at the site with highest current flow and suspended particle abundance. The positive correlation between current and suspended particle, or food, abundance suggests that a stronger current transports more organic particles to a set location than a weaker current. In comparison, H. magnifica and T. maxima abundance and occurrence were not related to current. This is because they are less reliant than D. maxima and S. giganteus on the current for suspension feeding. In comparison, all four species studied showed substrate preference. The distribution of the suspension feeders studied showed varying dependence on current and substrate type. Since suspension feeders regulate primary production by consuming plankton, their distribution and abundance greatly affects marine food chains. Understanding coral reef food chains is vital for comprehending the niche suspension feeders’ fill in coral reef ecosystems.

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