Ecological engines: Finescale hydrodynamic and chemical cues, zooplankton behavior, and implications for nearshore marine ecosystems
True, Aaron Conway
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Ephemeral patches of hydrodynamic and chemical sensory cues at fine scales are fundamentally important to the life success of plankton populations and thus the overall health and vitality of nearshore marine ecosystems. We employed various tools from experimental fluid mechanics to create ecologically-relevant hydrodynamic and chemical conditions in a recirculating flume system for zooplankton behavioral assays. The goal was to quantify and correlate changes in zooplankton behavior with coincident sensory cues. A laminar, planar free jet (the Bickley jet) was used to create finescale, free shear layers with targeted hydrodynamic characteristics as well as finescale, sharp-edged layers of both beneficial and toxic ("red tide") phytoplankton species. Planar particle image velocimetry (PIV) and laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) were used to quantify the flow and concentration fields, respectively. Behavioral assays with a variety of crustacean zooplankton species including Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), estuarine crab larvae (Panopeus herbstii), and calanoid copepods (Temora longicornis and Acartia tonsa), each unique in its ecology, morphology, and life history, show clear and statistically-significant behavioral responses to relevant hydrodynamic and chemical cues. Estuarine crab larvae optimize short term and long term behavioral needs (foraging and habitat selection) by sensing and exploiting the information contained in multi-directional free shear flows. In the presence of thin layers of toxic algal exudates (Karenia brevis), T. longicornis and A. tonsa exhibit explicit avoidance behaviors through significant increases in swimming speed and overall behavioral variability resulting in a conspicuous hydrodynamic signature in a risk/benefit behavioral response. Finally, Antarctic krill exploit the hydrodynamic cues contained in a free shear layer to modify swimming behaviors and ultimately graze in a thin phytoplankton layer (Tetraselmis spp.). Each species is able to sense and exploit the information contained in coherent hydrodynamic and chemical sensory cues to change swimming kinematics and alter macroscale trajectory characteristics. Quantifying changes in zooplankton behavior in response to ecologically-relevant sensory cues is a crucial step towards modeling (e.g. via biophysically-coupled individual-based ecosystem models) and managing sustainable marine fisheries.