AbstractZooplankton vary widely in carbon percentage (carbon mass as a percentage of wet mass), but are often described as either gelatinous or non-gelatinous. Here we update datasets of carbon percentage and growth rate to investigate whether carbon percentage is a continuous trait, and whether its inclusion improves zooplankton growth models. We found that carbon percentage is continuous, but that species are not distributed homogenously along this axis. To assess variability of this trait in situ, we investigated the distribution of biomass across the range of carbon percentage for a zooplankton time series at station L4 off Plymouth, UK. This showed separate biomass peaks for gelatinous and crustacean taxa, however, carbon percentage varied 8-fold within the gelatinous group. Species with high carbon mass had lower carbon percentage, allowing separation of the counteracting effects of these two variables on growth rate. Specific growth rates, g (d−1) were negatively related to carbon percentage and carbon mass, even in the gelatinous taxa alone, suggesting that the trend is not driven by a categorical difference between these groups. The addition of carbon percentage doubled the explanatory power of growth models based on mass alone, demonstrating the benefits of considering carbon percentage as a continuous trait.
Journal of Plankton Research – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2017
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