Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 4, pp 1551–1558 | Cite as

A comparison of absorption and assimilation efficiencies between four species of shallow- and deep-living fishes

  • Jeffrey C. DrazenEmail author
  • Kim R. Reisenbichler
  • Bruce H. Robison
Research Article


We captured two species of deep-sea zoarcids, Melanostigma pammelas and Lycodapus mandibularis, from Monterey Bay California and maintained them in the laboratory. One shallow-water zoarcid, Eucryphycus californicus, and an ecologically and morphologically similar stichaeid fish Xiphister atropurpureus were collected from intertidal and subtidal habitats in Monterey Bay. We investigated the absorption and assimilation efficiencies of these fishes to determine whether deep-sea species have evolved mechanisms to increase their efficiency of food use. Fishes were placed in experimental chambers and fed a known quantity of food. Ammonia excretion was measured and feces were collected daily. Both food and feces were analyzed for water, protein, lipid and ash to determine specific absorption efficiencies. Absorption ranged from 87.7 to 92.4% and assimilation efficiencies from 84.0 to 86.5%. Meal sizes from 0.5 to 4.0% of body weight did not affect the results. No significant differences were found between deep-sea and shallow-water species fed single meals or fed ad libitum for 10 days. This suggests that the selective pressure to maximize absorption and assimilation is universal and is not affected by the productivity of the habitat occupied. However, the relative size of the intestine in the deep-sea species was significantly smaller suggesting that they had a lower metabolic cost to maintain their digestive apparatus. It could not be concluded whether this was the result of pressure to conserve energy or rather the tendency of the shallow-living species to ingest more refractory material (i.e. sediment, algae).


Absorption Efficiency Assimilation Efficiency Meal Size Meal Frequency Single Meal 
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.



We thank Tonatiuh Trejo and Magdalena Gutowska for help with initial experiments in the lab. Steve Haddock kindly allowed us to use his seawater lab. Thanks to Greg Cailliet and Lara Ferry-Graham for collecting some of the E. californica and to Joe Welsh and John O’Sullivan for help collecting the X. atropurpureus. Chris Wood and Danielle McDonald (McMaster University) provided detailed protocols and advice for measuring ammonia and urea. J. Drazen was supported by a MBARI postdoctoral fellowship. Supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey C. Drazen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kim R. Reisenbichler
    • 2
  • Bruce H. Robison
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of OceanographyUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Monterey Bay Aquarium Research InstituteMoss LandingUSA

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