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Free Content Patterns of Feeding and Activity in Deposit-Feeding Holothurians and Echinoids (Echinodermata) from a Shallow Back-Reef Lagoon, Discovery Bay, Jamaica

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The holothurians Isostichopus badionotus Selenka, Holothuria mexicana Ludwig, H. thomasi Pawson and Caycedo, Actinopyga agassizi Selenka and Euapta lappa Müller, and the clypeastroid echinoid Clypeaster rosaceus L., had distinctly nocturnal patterns of activity and feeding. The spatangoid echinoid Meoma ventricosa Lamarck was more active at night than by day. Except in E. lappa, which was strictly nocturnal, activity increased during the afternoon, peaked before midnight, then declined to a minimum before midday. All species exhibited some form of diurnal concealment except I. badionotus and H. mexicana, which remained fully exposed at all times. These and other data suggest nocturnal activity, which may have evolved as a predation avoidance mechanism, as the paradigm of ancestral holothurian behavior. Evidence in support of a similar explanation for the behavior of the irregular echinoids is slight. Of the “permanently” infaunal species, the holothurian H. arenicola Semper did not vary its feeding throughout the 24-h cycle, while data suggesting diel variations in activity in the spatangoid echinoid Plagiobrissus grandis Gmelin were equivocal. The two spatangoid species and H. arenicola were major agents of bioturbation where they occurred at maximum densities, but the other holothurian species did not disturb or transport large quantities of sediment.

In the short-term (< 1 day), movements of I. badionotus, H. mexicana, M. ventricosa and P. grandis were random. Over a 10-day period, I. badionotus and H. mexicana moved less than predicted by the random walk theorem; this was attributed to boundary effects in an heterogeneous environment, and may explain how the patchy dispersion of each species is maintained. Over 9 days, in an apparently uniform environment, both species of spatangoid moved distances similar to those predicted for random walking. The density of the cryptic H. thomasi in a patch of coral heads may have been limited by the number of available, suitable crevices; the frequency with which animals changed crevices was considered an index of microhabitat suitability. The stability of burrows of H. arenicola over long periods of time can be related to their association with buried rubble, which provides a physical refuge from disturbance by bioturbation.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1982-04-01

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