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Title: Temporal changes in the trophic ecology of the asymbiotic gorgonian Leptogorgia virgulata
Author: Leal, Miguel C.
Berger, Stella A.
Ferrier-Pagès, Christine
Calado, Ricardo
Brandes, Jay
Frischer, Marc E.
Nejstgaard, Jens C.
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Abstract: Gorgonians are widespread sub-littoral benthic suspension feeders in the world oceans. However, data on their trophic ecology and role in benthic–pelagic coupling and biogeochemical cycles remain limited. This study assesses the trophic ecology of Leptogorgia virgulata in the Skidaway River estuary, USA (31.9896N, 81.0242W) by analysing carbon and nitrogen isotopic signatures of its soft tissue and different-sized fractions of particulate organic matter (POM) in its environment. Samples were taken in 5 April, 2 August, and 15 October 2012 and 11 January 2013. Results support a distinct temporal shift in the diet of L. virgulata from the POM fraction <10 µm (i.e. pico- and nanoplankton) to the 10–63-µm fraction (i.e. microplankton). This trophic regime is likely associated with the natural abundance of prey items within these size classes, thus suggesting that L. virgulata may be an opportunistic feeder, and seasonal shifts in food availability in the water column affect its diet. As such small prey items affect the bioenergetics of L. virgulata, it is important to understand the implications of changes in food availability associated with environmental drivers on the physiology and population dynamics of this dominant species in the western Atlantic Ocean.
Peer review: yes
DOI: 10.1007/s00227-014-2496-5
ISSN: 0025-3162
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