Copepod hatching success in marine ecosystems with high diatom concentrations

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Diatoms dominate spring bloom phytoplankton assemblages in temperate waters and coastal upwelling regions of the global ocean. Copepods usually dominate the zooplankton in these regions and are the prey of many larval fish species. Recent laboratory studies suggest that diatoms may have a deleterious effect on the success of copepod egg hatching1,2,3,4. These findings challenge the classical view of marine food-web energy flow from diatoms to fish by means of copepods5,6,7. Egg mortality is an important factor in copepod population dynamics8, thus, if diatoms have a deleterious in situ effect, paradoxically, high diatom abundance could limit secondary production. Therefore, the current understanding of energy transfer from primary production to fisheries in some of the most productive and economically important marine ecosystems9 may be seriously flawed1,10. Here we present in situ estimates of copepod egg hatching success from twelve globally distributed areas, where diatoms dominate the phytoplankton assemblage. We did not observe a negative relationship between copepod egg hatching success and either diatom biomass or dominance in the microplankton in any of these regions. The classical model for diatom-dominated system remains valid.

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Figure 1: Diatoms and copepod egg hatching success.


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This is a contribution to the international GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics) programme. We thank the captains and crews of the research vessels who made this work possible.

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Correspondence to Xabier Irigoien.

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

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Irigoien, X., Harris, R., Verheye, H. et al. Copepod hatching success in marine ecosystems with high diatom concentrations. Nature 419, 387–389 (2002) doi:10.1038/nature01055

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