Nutrient acquisition in four Mediterranean gorgonian species

TitleNutrient acquisition in four Mediterranean gorgonian species
Publication TypeArticolo su Rivista peer-reviewed
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCocito, Silvia, Ferrier-Pages Christine, Cupido Roberta, Rottier Cecile, Meier-Augenstein Wolfram, Kemp Helen, Reynaud Stephanie, and Peirano Andrea
Keywordsfeeding ecology, isotope, Spicule, symbiosis, Temperate gorgonian

Carbon and nitrogen isotope abundance values (delta C-13 and delta N-15, respectively) were measured for the first time in the soft tissue, axial skeleton, and spicules of 4 Mediterranean gorgonians, 3 asymbiotic (Leptogorgia sarmentosa, Paramuricea clavata, and Eunicella verrucosa) and 1 symbiotic with autotrophic dinoflagellates (Eunicella singularis). The isotopic composition of their diet, i.e. zooplankton, particulate organic matter (POM), and sedimentary organic matter (SOM), was also measured to understand gorgonian feeding ecology. (1) Carbon and nitrogen signatures of the symbiotic E. singularis tissue in summer differed significantly from the signatures of the other species; (2) carbon and nitrogen signatures of the axial skeleton were similar to those of the tissue, because the skeleton is primarily made of gorgonin secreted by the tissue; and (3) spicules had a high delta C-13 signature because they are made by a combination of 60 to 76% of respiratory CO2 and of external CO2, with a high delta C-13 signature. Comparison of the isotopic signatures of the gorgonian tissues and the food sources indicated that E. singularis and P. clavata had the same diet in both winter and summer, either zooplankton for E. singularis or POM and SOM for P. clavata. Conversely, L. sarmentosa and E. verrucosa shifted from zooplankton in winter to SOM in summer. These results bring insights into the feeding ecology of temperate gorgonians and explain their distribution, abundance, and role in the flow of particulate matter between the water column and the benthos.