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Trophic ecology of the zoanthid Palythoa caribaeorum (Cnidaria: Anthozoa) on tropical reefs

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2014

Erika Flávia Crispim de Santana
Affiliation:
Universidade Federal da Paraíba, Pós-graduação em Ciências Biológicas-Zoologia, Cidade Universitária, 58051-900 João Pessoa, PB, Brazil
Amanda Lacerda Alves
Affiliation:
Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Pós-graduação em Ecologia, Dois Irmãos, 52171-900 Recife, PE, Brazil
André De Melo Santos
Affiliation:
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Centro Acadêmico de Vitoria, Núcleo de Biologia, Rua do Alto do Reservatório s/n, Bela Vista, 55608-680 Vitória de Santo Antão, PE, Brazil
Maria Da Gloria G.S. Cunha
Affiliation:
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Pós-graduação em Oceanografia, Cidade Universitária, 50670-901 Recife, PE, Brazil
Carlos Daniel Perez
Affiliation:
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Centro Acadêmico de Vitoria, Núcleo de Biologia, Rua do Alto do Reservatório s/n, Bela Vista, 55608-680 Vitória de Santo Antão, PE, Brazil
Paula Braga Gomes
Affiliation:
Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Pós-graduação em Ecologia, Dois Irmãos, 52171-900 Recife, PE, Brazil
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

This study examined the trophic ecology of the zoanthid Palythoa caribaeorum in tropical reefs and evaluated its role in the energy flow in that ecosystem. Colonies of this species were sampled in the infralittoral zone of reefs in north-eastern Brazil in 2008. We calculated the richness, total abundance, relative abundance and frequency of occurrence of prey items. The biovolumes and weighted biovolumes of prey were calculated to characterize the most important food items in terms of their biomasses. To evaluate the selectivity, zoanthid and plankton samples were collected in 2010. Pennate diatoms were the most abundant and most frequent prey and, together with invertebrate eggs, constituted the most important food items in terms of their biomasses. There were no significant differences in abundance or richness among the different beaches studied, nor between the different seasons. The mean size of prey items within the polyps was significantly smaller than of the general plankton, indicating that P. caribaeorum selected for (or limited) certain prey sizes. This species predominantly fed on diatoms, and did not take advantage of many other prey items abundant in the plankton. Our results indicate that P. caribaeorum is suspensivorous and feeds principally on small phytoplankton. As this species is prey for benthic organisms such as polychaetes and nektonic organisms, our results indicate the importance of this zoanthid in tropical reef ecosystems as a primary consumer that serves as an energy transfer link between the planktonic environment and the nektonic and benthic spheres.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2014 

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Trophic ecology of the zoanthid Palythoa caribaeorum (Cnidaria: Anthozoa) on tropical reefs
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