Functional differences in the allometry of the water, carbon and nitrogen content of gelatinous organisms

Axayacatl Molina-Ramírez, Carlos Cáceres, Sonia Romero-Romero, Juan Bueno, J. Ignacio González-Gordillo, Xabier Irigoien, Jorge Sostres, Antonio Bode, Carmen Mompeán, Mariluz Fernández Puelles, Fidel Echevarria, Carlos M. Duarte, José Luis Acuña

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17 Scopus citations


We have supplemented available, concurrent measurements of fresh weight (W, g) and body carbon (C, g) (46 individuals, 14 species) and nitrogen (N, g) (11 individuals, 9 species) of marine gelatinous animals with data obtained during the global ocean MALASPINA 2010 Expedition (totalling 267 individuals and 33 species for the W versus C data; totalling 232 individuals and 31 species for the N versus C data). We then used those data to test the allometric properties of the W versus C and N versus C relationships. Overall, gelatinous organisms contain 1.13 ± 1.57% of C (by weight, mean ± SD) in their bodies and show a C:N of 4.56 ± 2.46, respectively, although estimations can be improved by using separate conversion coefficients for the carnivores and the filter feeders. Reduced major axis regression indicates that W increases isometrically with C in the carnivores (cnidarians and ctenophores), implying that their water content can be described by a single conversion coefficient of 173.78 gW(g C)-1, or a C content of 1.17 ± 1.90% by weight, although there is much variability due to the existence of carbon-dense species. In contrast, W increases more rapidly than C in the filter feeders (salps and doliolids), according to a power relationship W = 446.68C1.54. This exponent is not significantly different from 1.2, which is consistent with the idea that the watery bodies of gelatinous animals represent an evolutionary response towards increasing food capture surfaces, i.e. a bottom-up rather than a top-down mechanism. Thus, the available evidence negates a bottom-up mechanism in the carnivores, but supports it in the filter feeders. Last, N increases isometrically with C in both carnivores and filter feeders with C:N ratios of 3.89 ± 1.34 and 4.38 ± 1.21, respectively. These values are similar to those of compact, non-gelatinous organisms and reflect a predominantly herbivorous diet in the filter feeders, which is confirmed by a difference of one trophic level between filter feeders and carnivores, according to stable N isotope enrichment data. © 2015 The Author.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)989-1000
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Plankton Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 19 2015

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