Growth and tissue mass cycles in the infaunal bivalve Yoldia eightsi at Signy Island, Antarctica
Shell growth in Yoldia eightsi was measured over an austral summer and winter in 1992. In specimens 27 mm length did not increase in length. Tissue dry and ash-free dry mass (AFDM) cycles were assessed at monthly intervals between December 1988 and January 1991. ANCOVA indicated significant interannual and seasonal effects on this cycle. Tissue mass increased in the summer, coinciding with the phytoplankton bloom and the period of maximum sedimentation of organic material from the water column. A standard 20-mm-length animal reached a maximum AFDM of 114 mg in February 1990. The minimum value (68 mg AFDM) throughout the 2 years of measurements was in early December 1988, at the end of the austral winter. Periods of tissue mass increase were, therefore, decoupled from shell growth, at least in juveniles. Tissue mass was significantly higher in 1990 than 1989, which was mainly due to high organic contents in the summer (January to May). This was not consistent with the pattern of organic content in the sediments at the study site, but was in phase with the cycle in sediment chlorophyll a content. Tissue mass increase depended on major resource input during the summer, but Y. eightsi was capable of maintaining winter condition from stocks of benthic microalgae in years of poor ice cover. Tissue mass declined between April and July each year. This was accompanied by large falls in tissue ash content, and coincided with the spawning period in early June. These are the first monthly tissue mass data collected over a 2-year period for an Antarctic mollusc. They are the first such data indicating seasonal variation in tissue mass and showing a decoupling of shell and tissue growth in a polar bivalve. The P/B ratio calculated from these data was 0.106, which is slightly lower than previous values found for this species, but is in line with general values for Antarctic marine benthos.