Determination of prey capture rates in the stony coral Galaxea fascicularis: a critical reconsideration of the clearance rate concept

R. Osinga, S. van Delft, M.W. Lewaru, M. Janse, J.A.J. Verreth

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In order to determine optimal feeding regimes for captive corals, prey capture by the scleractinian coral Galaxea fascicularis was determined by measuring clearance of prey items from the surrounding water. Colonies of G. fascicularis (sized between 200 and 400 polyps) were incubated in 1300 ml incubation chambers. Nauplii of the brine shrimp Artemia sp. were used as the prey item. A series of incubation experiments was conducted to determine the maximal capture per feeding event and per day. To determine maximal capture per feeding event, total uptake of nauplii after one hour was determined for different prey item availabilities ranging from 50 to 4000 nauplii per polyp. To determine maximal capture per day, the corals were subjected to four repetitive feeding events at three different prey item densities (50, 100 and 150 nauplii per polyp). Alongside these quantitative experiments, it was tested to what extent the feeding response of corals is triggered by chemical cues. One hour after food addition, extract of Artemia nauplii was added to the incubation chambers to test its effect on subsequent prey capture rates. In all experiments, prey capture was expressed as the number of nauplii consumed per coral polyp. Total capture of Artemia nauplii by G. fascicularis after a single feeding event increased linearly up till a prey item availability of 2000 nauplii per polyp. Maximal capture per feeding event was estimated at 1200 nauplii per polyp, which is higher than rates reported in previous studies. It became apparent that at high densities of Artemia nauplii, the clearance rate method does not discriminate between active capture and passive sedimentation. Repetitive feeding with 50 nauplii per polyp resulted in a constant total prey capture per feeding event. At a supply of 100 nauplii per polyp, total capture decreased after the first feeding event, and remained constant during the subsequent feeding events at a level comparable to the lower food availability. However, at a supply of 150 nauplii per polyp, total capture per event was higher throughout the entire four-hour incubation period, which obfuscates an accurate estimation of the maximal daily food uptake. In all incubations, a decrease in capture efficiency was observed within the course of the feeding event. In all repetitive feeding experiments, capture efficiency increased immediately upon addition of a new batch of food. This increase in efficiency was not caused by a priming effect of extract of Artemia. The inconsistencies in the data show that estimates of prey capture based on clearance rates should be interpreted with caution, because this method does not take into account potential dynamics of prey capture and release.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-719
JournalJournal of the Marine Biological Association of The United Kingdom
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • stylophora-pistillata
  • scleractinian corals
  • skeletal growth
  • flow
  • heterotrophy
  • filtration


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