Feeding behaviour of the sea cucumberCucumaria frondosa(Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) in the laboratory and the field: relationships between tentacle insertion rate, flow speed, and ingestion

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The sea cucumber, Cucumaria frondosa, is a benthic suspension feeder that captures food particles on its tentacles and then inserts them into its mouth one at a time. Previous studies have suggested that tentacle insertion rate (TIR) could be a useful indicator of food intake. The present study determined whether flow velocity affects TIR and whether TIR is a good indicator of ingestion. Video observations of sea cucumbers in Passamaquoddy Bay (45°01.70N, 66°55.74W) in August 1995 showed that TIRs increased with velocities up to 55 cm s-1 and decreased steadily at flows above that up to 130 cm s-1. In October 2006, laboratory flume studies were carried out on specimens collected from the same site in the previous August. Temperature and salinity (12°C and 32) in the flume were the same as in the field at the time of collection. There was high individual variation in feeding behavior at free-stream velocities of 4–40 cm s-1 and TIR was independent of flow. As the number of tentacle insertions increased in the flume experiments, the amount of chloropigments in the digestive tracts of the sea cucumbers also increased. This suggests that TIR, which can be measured non-intrusively using remote video techniques, could be a good indicator of feeding behavior and ingestion in C. frondosa.

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