Hudson, I.R., Wigham, B.D. and Tyler, P.A.
The feeding behaviour of a deep-sea holothurian, Stichopus tremulus (Gunnerus) based on in situ observations and experiments using a Remotely Operated Vehicle
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 301, (1), . (doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2003.09.015).
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Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to deploy an in situ cage experiment
incorporating fluorescent Luminophore particle tracers, the gut throughput time of the deposit feeding holothurian, Stichopus tremulus (Gunnerus) was determined as 23.73 h (S.D.F2.3). For a range of individuals examined at different depths (350–500 m) and locations, throughput times varied between 19 and 26 h irrespective of animal size or gut tract length. In situ video observations of feeding behaviour showed that this species uses fine oral papillae in a ‘sweeping’ motion to target particles on the seafloor. Following detection of a food source fine-branched digitate tentacles collect a large range of sediment fragments from the seabed. The main types of particles ingested include silica fragments ( < 20 > 500 Am), pelagic foraminifera, benthic
foraminifera, fine phytodetrital remains and occasional larger rock fragments (f1 cm). Ingested sediment consisted mainly of very fine silica fragments (f50 Am) accounting for over 50% of the total gut contents. Frame-by-frame video analysis revealed that the particle handling time (i.e. the time taken for a tentacle insertion and the subsequent collection of food) was found to be f54 s. Only 10 of the 20 feeding tentacles were simultaneously employed during feeding. Use of tentacles appeared to be in sequence, alternating between the reserve and active tentacles. Estimating the rate of movement over the seabed and the total effective capture area of each tentacle, the impact of this animal on the turnover and quality of surface sediment at this deepwater site is potentially substantial. The in situ experiments provided a significant improvement over previous methods used to investigate deep-sea deposit feeders and represent a useful concept for further in situ deep-sea research using an industrial ROV.
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