Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 2, pp 327–337 | Cite as

Selective feeding of littoral harpacticoids on diatom algae: hungry gourmands?

  • A. I. AzovskyEmail author
  • M. A. Saburova
  • E. S. Chertoprood
  • I. G. Polikarpov
Research Article


We studied benthic harpacticoid grazing on diatom algae from two sites on the White Sea intertidal sandflat. Diatoms from sediments and from harpacticoid gut contents were sampled in situ, identified and counted, and grazing rates were calculated by two ways: (1) using potential daily ration estimations and (2) from the gut content and gut-residence time data. Paraleptastacus kliei did not contain any diatoms in the guts and presumably fed on other objects (bacteria or flagellates). Two other dominating species studied, Heterolaophonte minuta and Huntemannia jadensis, contained an average of 604 and 222 diatom cells per specimen. Diet composition differed significantly from the natural algal community. Two diatoms of intermediate cell size (Nitzschia palea var. debilis and Navicula sp.) contributed 92–97% of gut content for H. minuta and 58–81% for Hn. jadensis, whereas these diatoms amounted to only about 10% of biomass in native community. Mean consumption rates were estimated as 50–200 μg of wet biomass/day/cm2, so the harpacticoids grazed only between 3 and 11% of the total microalgae biomass per day. The grazing impact on the two preferred diatom populations, however, was much more intensive, 10–30% per day for Navicula sp. and 55–228% for N. palea. Therefore, native harpacticoid populations demonstrate highly selective feeding and could be strongly limited by their food in spite of seemingly plentiful total abundance of microphytobenthos. This disproportionally high grazing pressure upon some species apparently could affect the structure of microalgae communities resulting in low relative abundance of mid-sized forms. We hypothesize that a very dynamic spatio-temporal distribution of epibenthic harpacticoids (short-living micropatches) may be the possible adaptation to such local food limitation.


Microalgae Meiofauna Grazing Intensity Navicula Grazing Rate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors thank Filipp Sapozhnikov for the assistance in diatom identification. This research was supported by the Russian Fund of Basic Researches (grant Nos. 03–04–48018 and 04–05–64734).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. I. Azovsky
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. A. Saburova
    • 2
  • E. S. Chertoprood
    • 1
  • I. G. Polikarpov
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Hydrobiology, Biological FacultyMoscow State UniversityMoscowRussia
  2. 2.A.O. Kovalevsky Institute of Biology of the Southern SeasSevastopolUkraine

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