Food, feeding and growth rates of peracarid macro-decomposers in a Ria Formosa salt marsh, southern Portugal

Natália Dias, Mark Hassall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The diet, feeding rates and growth rates of three species of isopod and three species of amphipod from a Ria Formosa salt marsh in southern Portugal are compared to test the hypotheses that the relative success of amphipods as macro-decomposers in salt marshes worldwide can be a) attributed to their utilizing a distinctly different range of potentially available food resources and b) attributed to them using similar food resources but at different rates. The first hypothesis was tested using a combination of gut contents analysis, stable isotope analysis and multiple-choice food preference tests. The results of all three analyses showed that there was a very broad overlap in the resource utilization curves for these species for the most abundant potential foods available in the upper salt marsh. The first hypothesis was therefore rejected. The second hypothesis was tested with palatability experiments in which consumption rates of each of the test animals were compared for each potential food offered alone. The amphipods ate all five of the foods significantly faster, consuming from 3-73x more food per unit mass than the isopods. Analyses of their relative growth rates from when released from the marsupium until first breeding, showed that amphipods have a faster growth rate than isopods in the field which is consistent with other traits in their rapid development-high fecundity life-history strategy. We conclude that these data support the second hypothesis and that their morphological adaptations to a shredding, high ingestion-rate rapid gut turnover digestive strategy enable them to have a more efficient resource acquisition rate than the slower growing, lower fecundity and slower ingestion-rate longer gut throughput time strategy of most isopods.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-94
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Cite this