Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Zooplankton concentrations are known to vary by as much as an order of magnitude over a lunar cycle. Here, we conducted an experiment to determine the effect of ambient zooplankton concentrations over a lunar cycle on feeding rates of the corals Pavona gigantea (Verrill) (mounding coral, 3.0 mm diameter polyps) and Pocillopora damicornis (Linnaeus) (branching coral, 1.0 mm diameter polyps) in situ on a shallow reef at Isla Contadora, Gulf of Panama (Pacific), Panama. Coral fragments exposed to either enhanced or ambient zooplankton concentrations were allowed to feed for 1 h, collected, and their gut contents dissected. The number of zooplankton captured was counted, feeding rates calculated per cm(2), and the species composition of captured zooplankton assemblages determined. Although both species captured the same zooplankton assemblage, feeding rates were always significantly higher for P gigantea than for P. damicornis. Under ambient flow and zooplankton concentrations, feeding rates were highly correlated with zooplankton concentration in the 200-400 mu m size class. Under constantly enhanced zooplankton concentrations in the control fragments, feeding rates did not vary significantly over the lunar cycle. As such, coral feeding rates vary not as a result of lunar phase per se, but with changes in zooplankton abundance over the lunar cycle. Coral feeding rates are directly proportional to ambient zooplankton concentrations and may vary by as much as 50% over a lunar cycle, suggesting that corals must cope with major swings in sources of fixed carbon and nutrients over relatively short timescales. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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