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Journal of Plankton Research
Year: 2009  |  Volume: 31  |  Issue: 7  |  Page No.: 729 - 738

Annual assessment of the predation of Mnemiopsis leidyi in a new invaded environment, the Kiel Fjord (Western Baltic Sea): a matter of concern?

J Javidpour, J. C Molinero, A Lehmann, T Hansen and U. Sommer    

Abstract:

The sudden occurrence of the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi has been reported recently from different regions of the Baltic Sea and it has been suggested that the species has invaded the whole basin. Here we provide the first set of quantitative data of seasonal diet composition and life history traits of M. leidyi and its predatory role in the pelagic ecosystem of the Western Baltic Sea. The size structure of the species appeared to be dominated by small size classes and only a few adults were as large as those reported in the native region of the species and in other invaded areas. We show that the species has a high preference for small-sized and slow swimming prey, mainly during the winter low temperature period. Barnacle nauplii appeared to be the main source of carbon for the over-wintering population of M. leidyi. A preference for copepods was only found during August when these prey contributed up to 20% of the gut composition. In summer, planula larvae of the jellyfish Aurelia aurita were the most abundant prey in the gut content (feeding rate of 621 ind. ctenophore–1day–1). We further found that at highest densities of the species, in summer, a significant predation on its larvae occurs, this being the major carbon source of adults. Overall, these results are discussed in the context of trade-offs M. leidyi faces in the new environment and adverse environmental conditions, which are likely forcing the species toward reduced sizes and also probably reducing its potential predatory impact in the Baltic Sea.

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