An ecological study of Electra posidoniae Gautier, 1954 (Cheilostomata, Anasca), a bryozoan epiphyte found solely on the seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile, 1813

Gilles Lepoint, Olivier Mouchette, Corine Pelaprat, Sylvie Gobert

Abstract


The bryozoan Electra posidoniae Gautier is found solely on the leaves of the Neptune grass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile, dominating the leaf epifauna of this seagrass. Epiphytes of marine angiosperms (or seagrasses) often play an important role in ecosystem functioning, for example as food web suppliers. As dysfunction of the epiphytic component is often implied in human-induced seagrass decline, it is important to understand the dynamics and life traits of this community in pristine areas. This study involved the monthly assessment of colonization dynamics, biomass seasonality, and diet composition through measurements of stable isotopes, in E. posidoniae at a depth of 10 m in the Revellata Bay (Corsica, Mediterranean Sea). Ancestrulae (i.e. colony founders) appeared towards the end of winter and were very selective in their settlement position along the leaves of P. oceanica. A maximum of 100,000 colonies per square meter was recorded. Colonies of E. posidoniae dominated the epiphytic community biomass in early spring, but were overtaken by epiphytic algae in June. Food shortage could be involved in this reduction in dominance. Although stable isotope ratios of C, N and S showed that this suspension feeder mainly relies on the water column for its food, other food sources such as re-suspended epiphytic diatoms could be important in late spring (i.e. after the phytoplanktonic bloom). Additionally, a contribution of seagrass phytodetritus to the diet of this species cannot be excluded. The species was almost absent in winter, raising the question of its recruitment in spring. This study confirms the quantitative importance of this species in the seagrass meadow and explores its role in the relationship between the water column and this seagrass ecosystem.

Keywords


biofouling; bryozoan; seagrass; stable isotopes; Neptune grass; NW Mediterranean

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.26496/bjz.2014.65

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The Royal Belgian Society of Zoology acknowledges the Universitarian Foundation of Belgium and the National Fund of Scientific Research for their financial support in publishing the Belgian Journal of Zoology.