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Estimating digestion time in gelatinous predators: a methodological comparison with the scyphomedusa Aurelia aurita

FitzGeorge-Balfour, Tania, Hirst, Andrew G., Lucas, Cathy H., Craggs, Jamie, Whelan, Emma J., Mombrikotb, Shorok
Marine biology 2013 v.160 no.4 pp. 793-804
Acartia tonsa, digestion, digestive system, feeding behavior, females, predators, swimming
In order to quantify the trophic impact of gelatinous predators, digestion time estimates are commonly applied to counts of prey in the guts. Three primary approaches are used, the Manual-feeding, Natural-feeding and Steady-state methods; these differ in methodology and their underlying assumptions. The criteria used to define the end-point of digestion, and the resolution at which digestion progress is observed, also vary across studies. To understand the impact of such differences, we estimate digestion times of the scyphomedusa Aurelia aurita fed adult females of the copepod Acartia tonsa using these various approaches. We find ~fourfold differences which can be attributed to bias towards the slowest rates of digestion by some end-point criteria, and overestimation from low observation resolution. Artificial manipulation and the degree to which swimming and feeding behaviour are natural may also influence estimates. We provide recommendations for those quantifying digestion times of Aurelia aurita medusae and gelatinous predators.