Feeding on intertidal microbial mats by postlarval tiger shrimp, Penaeus semisulcatus De Haan
A series of experiments investigated the potential role of microbial mats in nutrition of the early settlement stages of Penaeus semisulcatus. From 3 days post-metamorphosis, the microbial mat supported high growth and survival rates in postlarvae, equivalent to that supported by a control diet of Artemia nauplii and mussel. Examination of gut contents indicated that benthic postlarvae feed indiscriminately on the microbial mat. However, when postlarvae were fed separated size-fractions of the microbial mat, only the fraction containing a high concentration of infauna (mainly nematodes) was able to support the same growth as intact microbial mat. This appears to be due to the low nitrogen content (0.4-0.9 mmol g-1) of the various size-fractions, compared to that of infauna (4.0 mmol g-1). The stable isotope composition of the dietary size-fractions and postlarval shrimp tissue supports the hypothesis that the shrimp assimilated C and N primarily from the associated infauna. This may be due to selective feeding that is not apparent from stomach contents, due to rapid digestion of fauna soft tissues, or to differential assimilation of infaunal prey relative to other microbial mat components. The results demonstrate that microbial mats may support survival and growth in early-stage penaeid shrimp postlarvae on intertidal mud flats.
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