Meiofauna versus macrofauna as a food resource in a tropical intertidal mudflat
Evaluations of the functioning of benthic marine food webs could be improved by quantifying organic matter fluxes from the meiofauna to higher trophic levels. In this study, we measured the simultaneous ingestion of meiofauna and macrofauna by common dwellers of a tropical intertidal mudflat on the coast of Amazonia. The meiofauna and macrofauna (tanaid) communities of a tropical intertidal mudflat of French Guiana were separately enriched with 15N and 13C, respectively. The enriched preys were then used as tracers during feeding experiments with common predators of different sizes and feeding mechanisms: a Portunidae crab (Callinectes bocourti), a Penaeidae shrimp (Farfantepenaeus subtilis), and a Gobiidae fish (Gobionellus oceanicus). In feeding experiments with all predators except crabs, feeding rates increased with the availability of meiofauna and macrofauna food sources. The ability of consumers to ingest their food selectively was evaluated by calculating the differences in the ratio of macrofauna to meiofauna between the (1) ingested material and (2) that available in the environment. Larger predators showed a higher degree of preferential macrofauna ingestion than smaller predators, consistent with the optimal foraging theory. For large predators, the meiofauna would be important only during early life or in the absence of large food items.
We would like to thank Antoine Gardel (CNRS Guiana) for technical support in the field, Céline Artero for her help with field work, Jerome Jourde (University of La Rochelle) for identifying C. bocourti and F. subtilis, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. This work received financial support from the CNRS, CNRS Guiana, the University of La Rochelle, and the European Fund for Regional Development (FEDER).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and animal rights
This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in the study involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of French law regarding maintaining animal welfare in research.
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