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Most spionid polychaetes switch from surface deposit feeding to suspension feeding as current speed and the flux of suspended food increase. Previous experiments testing the effects of flow on the growth of facultative, interface feeders have been limited to very simplified flow regimes such as constant, unidirectional currents. To measure the growth of interface-feeding spionids in more realistic currents, we programmed two identical counter-rotating annular flumes to simulate two different semidiurnal tidal currents. Each regime included four speeds that varied in hourly steps. At 5 mm above bottom, speeds in the slower flow regime were 0, 2.5, 5, and 7.5 cm s−1. Speeds in the faster regime were 0, 4, 8, and 12 cm s−11. Every 6 h, after each hour at 0 cm s−11, the flume rotation was reversed to simulate the directional shift between ebb and flood currents. The 12-h periods were repeated over 96 h. The experiment included eight 4-d runs of paired slow- and fast-flow flumes. Field-collected sediment and a nonliving algal slurry were added to control deposited and suspended food. Individuals of four species were measured for body volumes before and after each 4-d run: Polydora cornuta, Streblospio benedicti, Pygospio elegans, and Spio setosa. Each species except S. setosa was divided a priori into two size classes. Both small and large P. cornuta grew significantly faster in the fast-flow regime. Large P. elegans grew significantly faster in the fast-flow regime, but the growth rates of small P. elegans did not differ between regimes. Neither size class of S. benedicti grew at significantly different rates between flow regimes, and the broad size class of S. setosa did not show significant flow-dependent growth. The significant growth responses of two of the four species to moderate differences in tidal flow over a short time period underscore the impact flow can have on the population dynamics of some interface-feeding spionids. The differences among species suggest that variability in tidal currents can influence the structure and dynamics of communities in which spionids are often important and abundant.
The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.