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Comparison of diet and feeding activity of two polychaetes,Nephtys caeca(Fabricius) andNereis virens(Sars), in an estuarine intertidal environment in Québec, Canada

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2003.12.014
  • Estuarine Environment
  • Feeding Activity
  • Food Resource Overlap
  • Nephtys Caeca
  • Nereis Virens
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Abstract It is crucial to study how food resources are allocated in order to understand how invertebrate species of soft-bottomed benthic communities can live in the same environment, especially when belonging to the same trophic level. On the southern shore of the Lower St. Lawrence Estuary, the polychaetes Nereis virens (Nereidae) and Nephtys caeca (Nephtyidae) represent the main infaunal predators and are known to regulate (by predation) other populations within their community. For these animal populations, there is a high degree of spatial overlap in the horizontal dimension as well as vertically in the sediment column. The purpose of this study was to describe and compare the feeding activity of N. virens and N. caeca in relation to several environmental factors. The feeding activity of N. caeca was further studied under natural and experimental conditions and a feeding experiment was carried out to evaluate how the food resource is subdivided in conditions of high spatial overlap. Finally, the prospecting activity of N. virens was described under natural conditions. N. virens and N. caeca exhibited a high degree of dietary overlap, particularly at the adult stage. This food resource overlap can easily influence the regulation of these species, even though they display different feeding responses to environmental stimuli. Tides and storm events can also influence the feeding behaviour. We conclude that different behavioural feeding responses likely favour the occurrence of these two species in the same trophic environment.

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