The effect of flow speed and food size on the capture efficiency and feeding behaviour of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa

Covadonga Orejas (Corresponding Author), Andrea Gori, Cecilia Rad-Menéndez, Kim S. Last, Andrew J. Davies, Christine M. Beveridge, Daniel Sadd, Konstadinos Kiriakoulakis, Ursula Witte, John Murray Roberts

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The capture efficiency and feeding behaviour of the cold-water coral (CWC) Lophelia pertusa (Linnaeus, 1758) were investigated considering: (1) different food types, (2) different food sizes and (3) different current speeds and temperatures. This study used two different multifactorial experimental approaches: (1) Corals were subjected to three different flow speeds (2, 5 and 10 cm s− 1) in 5 l volume tanks, and three different food types (alive zooplankton, alive algae, and dry particulate organic carbon) were offered to the corals under each current regime, analysing the capture rates of the corals under these different flow velocities. (2) In a flume, the feeding behaviour of the coral polyps was studied under different current speed regimes (1, 7, 15 and 27 cm s− 1) and a temperature change over a range of 8–12 °C. The obtained results confirm that low flow speeds (below 7 cm s− 1) appear optimal for a successful prey capture, and temperature did not have an effect on polyp expansion behaviour for L. pertusa. In conclusion, flow speeds clearly impact food capture efficiency in L. pertusa, with zooplankton predominantly captured prey at low flow velocities (2 cm s− 1) and phytoplankton captured at higher flow velocities of 5 cm s− 1. This split in capture efficiency may allow corals to exploit different food sources under different tidal and flow conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-40
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Early online date3 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

The authors acknowledge L. Wicks and B. de Francisco for helping in coral sampling and coral care in the aquaria facilities at SAMS. Thanks to C. Campbell and the CCAP for kind support and help. Scientific party and crew on board the RVs Calanus and Seol Mara, as well as on board the RRS James Cook during the Changing Oceans cruise (JC_073) are greatly acknowledged. Thanks to colleagues at SAMS for their support during our stay at SAMS. We are in debt with A. Olariaga for his help modifying the cylindrical experimental chambers used in the experiments, and C.C. Suckling for assistance with the flume experiment. Many thanks go to G. Kazadinis for preparing the POM used in the feeding experiments. We also thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their constructive comments, which contribute to improve the manuscript.

This work has been supported by the European Commission through two ASSEMBLE projects (grant agreement no. 227799) conducted in 2010 and 2011 at SAMS, as well as by the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme's Benthic Consortium project (awards NE/H01747X/1 and NE/H017305/1) funded by NERC. [SS]


  • trophic ecology
  • Lophelia pertusa
  • NE Atlantic
  • flow speed
  • feeding experiments
  • behavioural experiments


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