Associations Between Lobster Phyllosoma and Gelatinous Zooplankton in relation to Oceanographic Properties In the Northern Gulf of Mexico

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Lobster phyllosoma are known to associate with large cnidarian medusae; however, direct quantitative observations are difficult because gelatinous zooplankton are extremely fragile, and the phyllosoma easily detach from their host when sampled by plankton nets. We provide the first large scale quantitative information of the distribution of this association using an in situ imaging system, with synoptic measurements of water column properties. All phyllosoma were identified as slipper lobsters (Scyllarus chacei) and were associated with previously unreported “hosts” such as small hydromedusae, doliolids, and siphonophores in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Along the shelf, phyllosoma were more likely to be present at greater depths and higher salinities. Approximately 30% of the 347 lobster phyllosoma imaged were attached to at least one gelatinous organism, and salinity and depth were positively related to the probability of attachment on 30 October, but did not show a significant relationship for the other days of sampling. Many of the phyllosoma were larger than the gelatinous organisms to which they were attached, and some gelatinous zooplankton showed damage likely from feeding by the phyllosoma. In this coastal environment, gelatinous zooplankton tended to be more abundant in the same offshore region where phyllosoma occurred, so these gelatinous “hosts” may provide a steady food supply in the more oligotrophic waters on the outer shelf. Similar complex interactions among zooplankton may influence the life histories of other species, hindering our ability to forecast ecosystem level processes until the population level consequences of species interactions are fully understood.

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Fisheries Oceanography





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