Marine Biology

, Volume 111, Issue 1, pp 95–111 | Cite as

Architecture of, and water circulation and flow rate in, the house of the planktonic tunicateOikopleura labradoriensis

  • P. R. Flood


The gelatinous house ofOikopleura labradoriensis (Tunicata, Appendicularia), collected from the docks of Friday Harbor Laboratories, University of Washington, USA, in 1984, 1986 and 1990, was examined in vivo by stereomicroscopy and strobe-light macrophotography, and after fixation and processing for light and electron microscopy. In addition to confirming previous knowledge and adding new information on structural organization of the oikopleurid house, this study presents quantitative data on important aspects of its function. Particles small enough to pass through the inlet filters (pore width ~13 µm) were concentrated between differently constructed upper and lower food-concentrating filters (pore widths 0.18 and 0.24 µm, respectively). These filtes were held together by an intermediary screen of widely separated ribbon-like filaments. Water sieved through the filters left the house through a pressure-regulated exit valve. However, the intermittent activity of the tail pump and the elasticity of the house caused frequent refluxes of water that cleared both inlet filters and foodconcentrating filter screens of adhering particles. During these refluxes the food-concentrating filters usually collapsed and compacted the trapped particles into coarser aggregates. With each pumping cycle the particles and aggregates were brought closer to the midline. From here they were periodically drained into the mouth of the organism through a medial food-collecting tube, to be recaptured in a pharyngeal feeding filter secreted by the organism's endostyle. Based on the size and movements of the tail within the close-fitting tail chamber, a water flow rate of ~0.84 ml min−1 was calculated for medium-sized houses (belonging to individuals with trunk length of ca. 1.2 mm). Taking the intermittent pumping activity of the tail into account, this equals ~35 ml h−1. Flow through the food-collecting tube was ~1 µl min−1, laminar and intermittent, and was probably comparable to a rate of ~0.04 ml h−1. Accordingly, the house allowed the oikopleurid to feed on a ca. 1000 × concentrated suspension of particles. Water speed through the meshes of the food-concentrating filters was ca. 0.15 mm min−1, or 2.5 µm s−1.


Dock Coarse Aggregate Water Circulation Water Flow Rate Pore Width 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. R. Flood
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of AnatomyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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