Feeding ecology of four species of sea urchins (genus Echinometra) in Okinawa
Abstract:We studied the feeding ecology of four Echinometra species at five different sites in Okinawa in terms of distribution, food availability, and gut contents. Echinometra sp. A was widely distributed from the lower intertidal to submerged areas, while Echinometra mathaei (Blainville, 1825) was common in the upper subtidal and lower intertidal areas. Echinometra sp. C and Echinometra oblonga (Blainville, 1825) were restricted to the upper intertidal zone. Although the diets of Echinometra spp. showed remarkable differences among sites and between seasons, 39.2%–80.7% of their gut contents usually consisted of plant material. Echinometra sp. A ingested a greater variety of plants than the other three species. The availability of major plants in the field was generally proportional to their abundance in the gut, except when Echinometra relied on imported drift plants or when feeding was restricted because of severe hydrodynamics. Benthic grazing was the primary feeding mode of Echinometra living on rock platforms, while drift feeding was pronounced when macrophytes were abundant in the habitat or surroundings. Our results suggest that despite differences in physical and nutritional environments among their micro-habitats, the four urchin species have essentially similar feeding types, modes, and preferences.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: July 1, 2007
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