Measurement of the respiration of Nucula nitidosa and N. nucleus determined that N. nucleus had a respiration rate approximately a third greater than that of N. nitidosa, 215·28 and 135·64 μl O2 gdfw−1 h−1, respectively. This was calculated to be equivalent to a metabolic rate of 0·648 J individual−1 24 h−1 for N. nitidosa and 1·752 J individual−1 24 h−1 for N. nucleus. Estimation of the production of N. nucleus, from its respiration rate, revealed that for comparable populations, N. nucleus was approximately a third more productive than N. nitidosa, 30 kJ g dry flesh weight (dfw)−1 m−2 y−1 as opposed to 20 kJ gdfw−1 m−2 y−1. Examination of the Kleiber's constant (β) obtained for each species, demonstrated that for N. nitidosa β fell in the range 0·75–1 and that for N. nucleus β fell in the range 1–1·25. This suggests, in combination with other data, that N. nucleus adopts an ‘exploitative’ functional strategy as opposed to N. nitidosa, which can be regarded as adopting a ‘conservationist’ functional strategy.
Observations on the hypoxic tolerance of both N. nitidosa and N. nucleus revealed that N. nucleus had a hypoxic tolerance about twice that of N. nucleus. The mean survival time±standard error for N. nitidosa was 3·53±0·18 d in contrast to 7·72±0·21 d for N. nitidosa. The hypoxic tolerance of either species was not related to body size and was independent of any possible effects of starvation. These results are discussed with reference to their potential effects to determine the distribution of N. nitidosa and N. nucleus.