Relationship of predation potential to mortality of Calanus finmarchicus on Georges Bank, northwest Atlantic

Ohman, Mark D., Edward G. Durbin, Jeffrey A. Runge, Barbara K. Sullivan, David B. Field

Limnol. Oceanogr., 53(4), 2008, 1643-1655 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2008.53.4.1643

ABSTRACT: Based on 29 cruises on Georges Bank between January and June, conducted as part of the U.S. Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics program, we describe seasonal and spatial variability of early life history mortality for the planktonic copepod Calanus finmarchicus and relate mortality to an index of predation potential from a suite of suspension-feeding predators. Emphasis is placed on the earliest life history phase wherein peak mortality occurs. Instantaneous mortality rates for a combined egg-through-nauplius-3 stage show a recurrent seasonal pattern of a modest elevation in January followed by a seasonal peak in May of all 5 study yr. Spatial differences exist in mortality rates, with a higher probability of mortality on the southern flank in winter and a pronounced seasonal maximum on the bank crest in May. Three hypotheses associated, respectively, with egg hatching success, advection, and invertebrate predation were evaluated to account for the seasonal and spatial mortality patterns. Variations in egg-hatching success are inconsistent with the observed seasonal patterns of loss. Off-bank advection, particularly on the southern flank, appears to be the dominant loss term in January. Apart from this winter period, egg mortality is associated with predation potential. Comparison of an index of daily rates of egg loss with an index of consumption rates of eggs by suspended hydroids, hydromedusae, and five species of planktonic copepods show general agreement between mortality and predation in both seasonal variation and spatial patterns. Of the predator taxa, late copepodid and adult C. finmarchicus, supplemented by planktonic hydroids, appear to have the largest quantitative predation effect.

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