Monday, April 19, 2010

Feeding the Bottom Feeders

Larger animals such as crabs. starfish and urchins limit the nutrients available for benthic organisms at the bottom of the sea floor.  Organisms such as snails, worms, and clams get out-competed by larger more mobile animals on the seafloor. Just of the coast of California at the Monterey Canyon one mile beneath the ocean surface these organism battle to consume the limited nutrients available. The underwater canyon which is roughly the size of the Grand Canyon, provides more nutrients than open ocean sea floors. The nutrient rich sediment that dissociates from the canyon walls provide tiny food particles and bacteria to an area that mostly relies on decaying fish and animals to float to the bottom to feed on. Size of snails and clams decreased as the distance away from the canyon walls increased. The researchers found that larger mobile animals such as crabs and urchins swarm the areas where nutrients are most abundant. The swarms of mobile animals consume most of the descending particles before the sediment dwellers get a chance to feed. The result is smaller, less diverse, and less populated benthic organisms as the distance to the canyon wall decreases.The article can be found http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100405111210.htm

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