In situ feeding physiology and grazing impact of the appendicularian community in temperate waters

Ángel López-Urrutia*, Xabier Irigoien, José Luis Acuña, Roger Harris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The physical and biological factors affecting the abundance and ingestion rates of different appendicularian species were investigated from April 1999 to May 2000 at a coastal station in the English Channel and on a transect of 3 stations across the shelf in the central Cantabrian Sea. Individual gut chlorophyll and gut food volume contents were used to determine the ingestion rates on autotrophic prey and on total particulate material. Body size was the variable explaining most of the variability in gut contents. For most species, over 60% of the ingested material came from non-chlorophyll-containing prey. Appendicularian community grazing impact was higher at the oceanic stations during early spring and autumn, with maximum values close to 10% of the total phytoplankton biomass removed daily. Oikopleura longicauda and O. fusiformis were the species with the highest grazing impact. During the study period, appendicularians removed an average of 8% of the primary production (PP) measured at the only station for which we have concurrent measurements. Our results suggest that the bulk of appendicularian populations resides in the surface mixed layer and that their grazing rates increase with increasing PP. However, the percentage of the PP removed by the appendicularian community decreases with increasing productivity, indicating that their grazing impact is relatively more important under oligotrophic conditions. Appendicularians could account for close to 40% of the total mesozooplankton grazing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-141
Number of pages17
StatePublished - Apr 30 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Appendicularian
  • Feeding
  • Fritillaria
  • Grazing
  • Gut content
  • Oikopleura
  • Tunicate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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