Skip to main content Accessibility help

Molecular analyses of gut contents: elucidating the feeding of co-occurring salps in the Lazarev Sea from a different perspective

  • Katja Metfies (a1) (a2), Anja Nicolaus (a1), Lena Von Harbou (a1), Ulrich Bathmann (a1) (a3) and Ilka Peeken (a1) (a4)...


The diet of Antarctic salps was elucidated by investigating their gut content using automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) and 454-pyrosequencing. Salp samples were collected during the Lazarev Sea Krill Study in the western Weddell Sea (summer 2005–06 and 2007–08, autumn 2004 and winter 2006). Two salp species, Salpa thompsoni and Ihlea racovitzai, both occur in the Southern Ocean and can overlap geographically and seasonally. We provide evidence that, despite the non-selective feeding mechanism, the two co-occurring salp species might have different niches within a habitat. ARISA-patterns of 93 gut content samples revealed strong differences between the two salp species, even at the same sampling site. These differences were confirmed by 454-pyrosequencing of the V4-18S rDNA of ten salps. The pyrosequencing data indicate that flagellates, in particular dinophyceae, constitute a high proportion of the sequence reads identified in the gut content of both salp species. However, within the dinophyceae, differences in the read composition were detected between the two salp species. This supports the findings of a previous study where fatty acid signatures indicate a flagellate-based diet, even though microscopic analyses identified diatoms as the dominant component of salp gut contents.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Alldredge, A.L. & Madin, L.P. 1982. Pelagic tunicates - unique herbivores in the marine plankton. Bioscience, 32, 655663.
Atkinson, A., Siegel, V., Pakhomov, E. & Rothery, P. 2004. Long-term decline in krill stock and increase in salps within the Southern Ocean. Nature, 432, 100103.
Behnke, A., Barger, K.J., Bunge, J. & Stoeck, T. 2010. Spatio-temporal variations in protistan communities along an O-2/H2S gradient in the anoxic Framvaren Fjord (Norway). FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 72, 89102.
Dalsgaard, J., St John, M., Kattner, G., Müller-Navarra, D. & Hagen, W. 2003. Fatty acid trophic markers in the pelagic marine environment. Advances in Marine Biology, 46, 225340.
Diez, B., Massana, R., Estrada, M. & Pedros-Alio, C. 2004. Distribution of eukaryotic picoplankton assemblages across hydrographic fronts in the Southern Ocean, studied by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. Limnology and Oceanography, 49, 10221034.
Dubischar, C.D., Pakhomov, E.A., von Harbou, L., Hunt, B.P.V. & Bathmann, U.V. 2012. Salps in the Lazarev Sea, Southern Ocean: II. Biochemical composition and potential prey value. Marine Biology, 159, 1524.
Dunbar, J., Ticknor, L.O. & Kuske, C.R. 2000. Assessment of microbial diversity in four southwestern United States soils by 16S rRNA gene terminal restriction fragment analysis. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 66, 29432950.
Edgar, R.C., Haas, B.J., Clemente, J.C., Quince, C. & Knight, R. 2011. UCHIME improves sensitivity and speed of chimera detection. Bioinformatics, 27, 21942200.
Finn, R.D., Clements, J. & Eddy, S.R. 2011. HMMER web server: interactive sequence similarity searching. Nucleic Acids Research, 39, W29W37.
Fraser, L., Strzezek, J. & Kordan, W. 2011. Effect of freezing on sperm nuclear DNA. Reproduction in Domestic Animals, 46, 1417.
Garrison, D.L., Buck, K.R. & Gowing, M.M. 1993. Winter plankton assemblage in the ice edge zone of the Weddell and Scotia Seas – composition, biomass and spatial distributions. Deep-Sea Research Part I - Oceanographic Research Papers, 40, 311338.
Joo, S., Lee, S.R. & Park, S. 2010. Monitoring of phytoplankton community structure using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP). Journal of Microbiological Methods, 81, 6168.
Kunin, V., Engelbrektson, A., Ochman, H. & Hugenholtz, P. 2010. Wrinkles in the rare biosphere: pyrosequencing errors can lead to artificial inflation of diversity estimates. Environmental Microbiology, 12, 118123.
Margulies, M., Egholm, M., Altman, W.E. et al. 2005. Genome sequencing in microfabricated high-density picolitre reactors. Nature, 437, 376380.
Matsen, F.A., Kodner, R.B. & Armbrust, E.V. 2010. pplacer: linear time maximum-likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic placement of sequences onto a fixed reference tree. BMC Bioinformatics, 11, 10.1186/1471-2105-11-538.
Medlin, L.K., Metfies, K., Mehl, H., Wiltshire, K. & Valentin, K. 2006. Picoeukaryotic plankton diversity at the Helgoland time series site as assessed by three molecular methods. Microbial Ecology, 52, 5371.
Mendes, C.R.B., Tavano, V.M., Leal, M.C., de Souza, M.S., Brotas, V. & Garcia, C.A.E. 2013. Shifts in the dominance between diatoms and cryptophytes during three late summers in the Bransfield Strait (Antarctic Peninsula). Polar Biology, 36, 537547.
Metfies, K., Gescher, C., Frickenhaus, S., Niestroy, R., Wichels, A., Gerdts, G., Knefelkamp, B., Wiltshire, K. & Medlin, L. 2010. Contribution of the class cryptophyceae to phytoplankton structure in the German Bight. Journal of Phycology, 46, 11521160.
Metfies, K. & Medlin, L.K. 2008. Feasibility of transferring fluorescent in situ hybridization probes to an 18S rRNA gene phylochip and mapping of signal intensities. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 74, 28142821.
Moline, M.A., Claustre, H., Frazer, T.K., Schofield, O. & Vernet, M. 2004. Alteration of the food web along the Antarctic Peninsula in response to a regional warming trend. Global Change Biology, 10, 19731980.
Nichols, P.D., Skerratt, J.H., Davidson, A., Burton, H. & McMeekin, T.A. 1991. Lipids of cultured Phaeocystis pouchetii – signatures for food-web, biochemical and environmental studies in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Phytochemistry, 30, 32093214.
Nickrent, D.L. & Sargent, M.L. 1991. An overview of the secondary structure of the V4-region of eukaryotic small subunit ribosomal RNA. Nucleic Acids Research, 19, 227235.
Nicol, S., Worby, A. & Leaper, R. 2008. Changes in the Antarctic sea ice ecosystem: potential effects on krill and baleen whales. Marine and Freshwater Research, 59, 361382.
Ono, A. & Moteki, M. 2013. Spatial distributions and population dynamics of two salp species, Ihlea racovitzai and Salpa thompsoni, in the waters north of Lutzow-Holm Bay (East Antarctica) during austral summers of 2005 and 2006. Polar Biology, 36, 807817.
Pakhomov, E.A., Dubischar, C.D., Strass, V., Brichta, M. & Bathmann, U.V. 2006. The tunicate Salpa thompsoni ecology in the Southern Ocean. I. Distribution, biomass, demography and feeding ecophysiology. Marine Biology, 149, 609623.
Pakhomov, E.A., Froneman, P.W. & Perissinotto, R. 2002. Salp/krill interactions in the Southern Ocean: spatial segregation and implications for the carbon flux. Deep-Sea Research Part II - Topical Studies in Oceanography, 49, 18811907.
Pakhomov, E.A., Hall, J., Williams, M.J.M., Hunt, B.P.V. & Stevens, C.J. 2011. Biology of Salpa thompsoni in waters adjacent to the Ross Sea, Southern Ocean, during austral summer 2008. Polar Biology, 34, 257271.
Perissinotto, R., Mayzaud, P., Nichols, P.D. & Labat, J.P. 2007. Grazing by Pyrosoma atlanticum (Tunicata, Thaliacea) in the south Indian Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 330, 111.
Smetacek, V., Assmy, P. & Henjes, J. 2004. The role of grazing in structuring Southern Ocean pelagic ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles. Antarctic Science, 16, 541558.
Tanimura, A., Kawaguchi, S., Oka, N., Nishikawa, J., Toczko, S., Takahashi, K.T., Terazaki, M., Odate, T., Fukuchi, M. & Hosie, G. 2008. Abundance and grazing impacts of krill, salps and copepods along the 140 degrees E meridian in the Southern Ocean during summer. Antarctic Science, 20, 365379.
Tobe, K., Meyer, B. & Fuentes, V. 2010. Detection of zooplankton items in the stomach and gut content of larval krill, Euphausia superba, using a molecular approach. Polar Biology, 33, 407414.
Vargas, C.A. & Madin, L.P. 2004. Zooplankton feeding ecology: clearance and ingestion rates of the salps Thalia democratica, Cyclosalpa affinis and Salpa cylindrica on naturally occurring particles in the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Journal of Plankton Research, 26, 827833.
Von Bodungen, B., Noëthig, E.M. & Sui, Q. 1988. New production of phytoplankton and sedimentation during summer 1985 in the south eastern Weddell Sea. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Comparative Biochemistry, 90, 475487.
von Harbou, L., Dubischar, C.D., Pakhomov, E.A., Hunt, B.P.V., Hagen, W. & Bathmann, U.V. 2011. Salps in the Lazarev Sea, Southern Ocean: I. Feeding dynamics. Marine Biology, 158, 20092026.
Woese, C.R. 1987. Bacterial evolution. Microbiological Reviews, 51, 221271.
Wolf, C., Frickenhaus, S., Kilias, E.S., Peeken, I. & Metfies, K. 2013. Regional variability in eukaryotic protist communities in the Amundsen Sea. Antarctic Science, 25, 741751.
Zhu, F., Massana, R., Not, F., Marie, D. & Vaulot, D. 2005. Mapping of picoeucaryotes in marine ecosystems with quantitative PCR of the 18S rRNA gene. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 52, 7992.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Metfies Supplementary Material
Table S1

 Word (17 KB)
17 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed