Diets and feeding selectivity among the epipelagic copepod community near South Georgia in summer
During the austral midsummers of 1989/1990 and 1990/1991, seven grazing experiments were undertaken near South Georgia. The copepods spanned 3 orders of magnitude in body mass, from young copepodids of small pseudocalanids to adult females of Rhincalanus gigas. Incubations were in natural sea-water and feeding rates were determined by microscope counts of food items (size range 7–1200 μm). Daily rations of the smallest copepods were up to 120% body carbon per day. These high rations contrast with values of less than 10% for large copepods (older copepodids of Calanoides acutus and R. gigas). All sizes of copepods could ingest the full size spectrum of measured particles. However, maximum filtration rates of small copepods were on cells <100 μm whereas the large grazers cleared the largest cells (usually long diatoms) at maximum rates. Motile, non-diatom taxa (mainly heterotrophic, aloricate dinoflagellates and ciliates) did not appear to have been eaten in preference to diatoms of similar size, but their abundance and high calorific value meant that they comprised a median of 43% of carbon intake across the experiments. These motile, mainly <50 μm cells were of a suitable size for ingestion by small copepods and consequently featured more prominently in their diets. The ability of small copepods to feed heavily on cells <50 μm, before, during or after blooms, may be important in their life cycles, leading to reduced competition with their larger relatives.