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Feeding behavior of the ctenophore Thalassocalyce inconstans: revision of anatomy of the order Thalassocalycida


Behavioral observations using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in the Gulf of California in March, 2003, provided insights into the vertical distribution, feeding and anatomy of the rare and delicate ctenophore Thalassocalyce inconstans. Additional archived ROV video records from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute of 288 sightings of T. inconstans and 2,437 individual observations of euphausiids in the Gulf of California and Monterey Canyon between 1989 and 2005 were examined to determine ctenophore and euphausiid prey depth distributions with respect to temperature and dissolved oxygen concentration [dO]. In the Gulf of California most ctenophores (96.9%) were above 350 m, the top of the oxygen minimum layer. In Monterey Canyon the ctenophores were more widely distributed throughout the water column, including the hypoxic zone, to depths as great as 3,500 m. Computer-aided behavioral analysis of two video records of the capture of euphausiids by T. inconstans showed that the ctenophore contracted its bell almost instantly (0.5 s), transforming its flattened, hemispherical resting shape into a closed bi-lobed globe in which seawater and prey were engulfed. Euphausiids entrapped within the globe displayed a previously undescribed escape response for krill (‘probing behavior’), in which they hovered and gently probed the inner surfaces of the globe with antennae without stimulating further contraction by the ctenophore. Such rapid bell contraction could be effected only by a peripheral sphincter muscle even though the presence of circumferential ring musculature was unknown for the Phylum Ctenophora. Thereafter, several live T. inconstans were collected by hand off Barbados and microscopic observations confirmed that assumption.

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