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Microbial functional structure and stable isotopic variation of leptocephali across three current zones in the western South Pacific

Abstract : The ecology of leptocephali remains poorly known but they appear to feed on marine snow that can vary spatially and temporally according to the food web dynamics. This study provided new information about the position of leptocephali within the functional structure of microbial plankton and other food web components of the western South Pacific (WSP) region at a large geographic scale including the New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa islands. The hydrographic structure varied with latitude, and nutrient levels were generally low but somewhat variable. Stable isotopic signatures were examined in relation to the 3 current zones of the eastward flowing South Equatorial Countercurrent (SECC; north), the westward South Equatorial Current (SEC; mid-latitudes), and the eastward South Tropical Countercurrent (STCC; south), and all zones were found to be primarily based on a heterotrophic planktonic functioning that were co-limited by inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus, with biomasses of planktonic groups varying with depth. Isotopic signatures of leptocephali were compared to the signatures of other mesozoplankton, micronekton, and Trichodesmium components of the food web, and in relation to the signatures of particulate organic matter (POM) that varied among the 3 collection depths. The isotopic signatures of six taxa of leptocephali, other taxonomic groups and POM showed interesting variability according to latitude and among some stations. The presence of Trichodesmium at the surface in the STCC zone influenced the isotopic signatures of POM and thus the signatures of leptocephali. The signatures of leptocephali were therefore linked with the overall food web and were consistent with the larvae feeding on marine snow components of POM. The two apparent groups of leptocephali with different isotopic signatures that have also been observed in other oceanic areas may be explained by feeding behavior at different depths or on different types of marine snow.
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Leopold Ghinter, Christine Dupuy, Michael J. Miller, Alexandre Carpentier, Christel Lefrançois, et al.. Microbial functional structure and stable isotopic variation of leptocephali across three current zones in the western South Pacific. Progress in Oceanography, Elsevier, 2020, 182, pp.102264. ⟨10.1016/j.pocean.2020.102264⟩. ⟨hal-02518761⟩

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