Population dynamics and life strategies of Rhincalanus nasutus (Copepoda) at the onset of the spring bloom in the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea)

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Abundance, distribution, population structure, lipid content, lipid composition and reproductive and feeding activity of Rhincalanus nasutus were studied in the Gulf of Aqaba and in the northern Red Sea during RV “Meteor”-cruise M 44-2 in February/March 1999. Rhincalanus nasutus occurred in higher numbers in the Gulf of Aqaba (585 ind m−2) than in the northern Red Sea (254 ind m−2). Young developmental stages (nauplii, copepodite stages CI and CII) were absent. In the southern Gulf of Aqaba, the bulk of the population developed from stage CV to adult in the course of the 3-week study period. In contrast, immature CV stages dominated at the adjacent stations in the northern Gulf of Aqaba and in the northern Red Sea. Development was associated with the seasonal vertical migration from wintering mid-water layers and initiation of feeding starting as early as beginning of March in the southern Gulf of Aqaba. No upward migration was observed in the northern parts of the Gulf and in the northern Red Sea, where more than 90% of the females remained immature during our study. Lipids were dominated by wax esters in females and CV. The fatty acid and fatty alcohol compositions of females were very similar throughout the study region and period. Major fatty acids were 18:1(n−9), 16:1(n−7), 16:2(n−4) and 20:5(n−3). Our results support the previous reports of a seasonal dormancy of R. nasutus in the Gulf of Aqaba and suggest that the timing of vertical migration, feeding and maturation is closely coupled to the development of the spring bloom in oligotrophic subtropical waters.

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