Polyp expansion of passive suspension feeders: A red coral case study

Sergio Rossi, Lucia Rizzo, Jean Claude Duchêne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

10 Citations (Scopus)


© 2019 Rossi et al. Polyp activity in passive suspension feeders has been considered to be affected by several environmental factors such as hydrodynamics, water temperature and food concentration. To better elucidate the driving forces controlling polyp expansion in these organisms and the potential role of particle concentration, the octocoral Corallium rubrum was investigated in accordance with two approaches: (1) high-frequency in- situ observations examining various environmental and biological variables affecting the water column, and (2) video-recorded flume-controlled laboratory experiments performed under a range of environmental and biological conditions, in terms of water temperature, flow speed, chemical signals and zooplankton. In the field, C. rubrum polyp expansion correlated positively with particle (seston and zooplankton) concentration and current speed. This observation was confirmed by the flume video records of the laboratory experiments, which showed differences in polyp activity due to changes in temperature and current speed, but especially in response to increasing nutritional stimuli. The maximum activity was observed at the highest level of nutritional stimulus consisting of zooplankton. Zooplankton and water movement appeared to be the main factors controlling polyp expansion. These results suggest that the energy budget of passive suspension feeders (and probably the benthic community as a whole) may rely on their ability to maximise prey capture during food pulses. The latter, which may be described as discontinuous organic matter (dead or alive) input, may be the key to a better understanding of benthic-pelagic coupling processes and trophic impacts on animal forests composed of sessile suspension feeders.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7076
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Activity rhythms
  • Benthic-pelagic coupling
  • Corallium rubrum
  • Octocorals
  • Optimal foraging theory
  • Passive suspension feeders
  • Trophic ecology


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