Feeding preferences of abyssal macrofauna inferred from in situ pulse chase experiments

Rachel M Jeffreys, Ciara Burke, Alan J Jamieson, Bhavani E Narayanaswamy, Henry A Ruhl, Kenneth L Smith, Ursula Witte

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Climatic fluctuations may significantly alter the taxonomic and biochemical composition of phytoplankton blooms and subsequently phytodetritus, the food source for the majority of deep-sea communities. To examine the response of abyssal benthic communities to different food resources we simulated a food sedimentation event containing diatoms and coccolithophorids at Station M in the NE Pacific. In one set of experiments we measured incorporation of C-diatom and N-cocco into the macrofauna using isotopically enriched C-13-diatoms and N-15-coccolithophores. In a second experiment we measured incorporation of C and N from dual-labelled (C-13 and N-15) diatoms. The second experiment was repeated 2 months later to assess the effect of seasonality. The simulated food pulses represented additions of 650 - 800 mg C m(-2) and 120 mg N m(-2) to the seafloor. In all cases rapid incorporation of tracer was observed within 4 days, with between 20% and 52% of the macrofauna displaying evidence of enrichment. However, incorporation levels of both C-diatom and N-cocco were low (

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere80510
Number of pages15
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by Natural Environment Research Council Grant (UK) awarded to UW and the National Science Foundation (US) and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation awarded to KLS. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

We would like to acknowledge one anonymous reviewer and Dr. Hidetaka Nomaki for their useful comments on the manuscript. We sincerely thank the Captain, officers and crew of the R.V. Western Flyer and the pilots of the ROV Tiburon for assistance at sea during PULSE 52. We are also grateful to Jacob Ellena for logistical support/assistance at sea, Amanda Khan for helping RJ with sieving sediment cores and Markus Moeseneder for collecting samples during PULSE 53. We would also like to thank Barry Thornton for his help with the isotope analyses


  • tricarboxylic-acid cycle
  • deep-sea nematodes
  • particulate organic-carbon
  • antarctic peninsula shelf
  • benthic boundary-layer
  • Eastern North Pacific
  • time-series station
  • food-web structure
  • NE Pacific
  • stable-isotopes


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