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Field experiments on the role of epibenthic predators in determining prey densities in an estuarine mudflat

Gee, J.M., Warwick, R.M., Davey, J.T. and George, C.L. (1985) Field experiments on the role of epibenthic predators in determining prey densities in an estuarine mudflat. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 21 (3). pp. 429-448.

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A series of caging experiments was performed on an estuarine mudflat at three seasons of the year, in which Carcinus maenas L. and Pomatoschistus microps (Kroyer) were either excluded from, or allowed to prey upon, the benthos in order to determine to what extent infaunal abundance and mortality was a result of predation by epibenthic predators.

The difficulties of conducting and interpreting the results of such experiments are recognized. The benthic macrofauna of this mudflat is dominated numerically by small annelids and there is evidence that adult C. maenas can cause significant increases in the oligochaete component of this assemblage, probably as a result of disturbance caused by its burrowing activity. Juvenile C. maenas on the other hand significantly reduced the abundance of small annelids, particularly the dominant polychaete Manayunkia aestuarina (Bourne) and could be responsible for year-to-year variations in abundance of this species. The role of fish predators (in this case P. microps) is more problematical but it is suggested that in the densities at which they occur naturally on the mudflat they have little direct effect on the abundance of prey species. There is no evidence that seasonal mortality of small annelids is reduced in the absence of predation and this is taken to indicate that not all mortality is due to epibenthic predation. Certain changes in relative abundance of the component species of the harpacticoid copepod community were discerned but it is suggested that the plasticity of their reproductive potential is such that the effect of predation on the group as a whole is usually masked.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Academic Press
Copyright: © 1985 Elsevier Ltd.
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