Little is currently known about the mechanisms by which zooplankton could find and locate sinking particles in the marine pelagic environment. However this process is believe to be an important pathway in reducing the downward carbon flux in the ocean and could also be an important food supply for zooplankton organisms or fishes larvae. In pelagic Ocean, appendicularians are important producers of large sinking particles through the continuous secretion of mucous filtering structures named “the house”. However some indications that houses disappear during the sedimentation, the processes and rates of this degradation are nearly unknown. Here I propose a research program to investigate the rates and mechanisms of the predation and degradation of appendicularian houses linked with copepods, eels larvae or microbial activity alone. Specifically, I will address the following three objectives, 1) to identify and quantify the predator behaviour to track and find discarded houses in the water column (visual, mechanic or chemical trail perception). 2) Quantify the degradation rate of appendicularian houses in regards to the different predator types. 3) Quantify the growth rates of these predators with an appendicularian houses diet. These objectives will gives information on 1) the particles encountering rate in the field, 2) the reduction of the downward flux of matter in the ocean and 3) the importance of particles in the nutrition of predators and would give new perspectives for the culture of eels for commercial uses. The research will employ an integrated approach combining behavioural studies, cultures, and incubations experiments. Research proposed here will be one of the first attempts to identify and quantify these processes. The proposed research will increase the scientific excellence of the European research through development of a novel research theme at the host laboratory (DIFRES, Denmark) and initiation of international collaboration in the research field.
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