Planktonic benthic invertebrates, Biology tutorial

Benthic Organisms:

Benthic organisms can be divided in three distinct communities:

Infauna: Plants, animals and bacteria of any size which live in sediment.

Epifauna: Plants, animals and bacteria which are attached to hard bottom or substrate (for instance, to rocks or debris); are able to movement; or that live on sediment surface.

Demersal: Bottom-feeding or bottom-dwelling fish which feed on benthic infauna and epifauna.

Benthic organisms connect primary producers, like phytoplankton, with higher trophic levels, like finfish, by consuming phytoplankton and then being consumed by larger organisms. They also play the main role in breaking down organic material. Benthic algae and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) give ideal habitat for juvenile fish.

Infaunal benthic communities frequently are regarded as just worms. In reality, though, these groups which inhabit sediment comprise animals from all trophic levels-the primary producers, like diatoms, and primary consumers, like mollusks and worms; secondary consumers, like worms and crustaceans; and "decomposers," like bacteria and flagellates.

Epifaunal Benthos: Epifauna are the most familiar of all the benthic organisms. They comprise plants and animals one sees while wading in tidal pools or among pilings or rocks. These communities comprise seaweeds, mussels, oysters, and barnacles; and starfish, snails and crabs. They also comprise animals which span the wide evolutionary range, from primitive sponges to early vertebrates (for instance, tunicates, like sea squirts). These differed organisms share the significant features: they live either attached to hard substrate or move on sediment surface.

The demersal community comprises some of the most economically valuable fish. To adapt to life on bottom, benthic fish have developed few of the most varied physical features found in any fish community. Soft-bottom fish comprise flounders, searobins, puffers and cownose rays. Hard-bottom fish comprise those found near reefs, like the oyster toadfish and goby, which, when stationary, resemble rocks.

Common Nature of Benthic Invertebrates:

Invertebrates which inhabit benthic zone are numerically dominated by small species and are species rich compared to zooplankton of the open water. They comprise Crustaceans (like crabs, crayfish, and shrimp), molluscs (like clams and snails), and several kinds of insects. These organisms are generally found in areas of macrophyte growth, where richest resources, extremely oxygenated water, and warmest portion of ecosystem are found. The structurally varied macrophyte beds are significant sites for the addition of organic matter, and give the ideal area for colonization. Sediments and plants also offer the great deal of protection from predatory fishes. Benthic invertebrates, because of their high level of species richness, have several methods of prey capture. Filter feeders generate currents using siphons or beating cilia, to pull water and nutritional contents, towards themselves for straining. Grazers use scraping, rasping, and shredding adaptations to feed on periphytic algae and macrophytes. Members of collector guild browse the sediments, picking out particular particles with raptorial appendages. Deposit feeding invertebrates arbitrarily consume sediment, digesting any organic material it has. At last, some invertebrates belong to predator guild, capturing and consuming living animals. Profundal zone is home to the unique group of filter feeders which use small body movements to draw the current through burrows which they have created in sediment. This method of feeding needs least amount of motion, permitting these species to conserve energy. The small number of invertebrate taxa is predators in the profundal zone. These species are probable from other regions and only come to these depths to feed. The huge majority of invertebrates in this zone are deposit feeders, getting energy from surrounding sediments.

Benthic invertebrates are among the most significant components of estuarine ecosystems and may symbolize largest standing stock of organic carbon in sea. Several benthic organisms, like hard clams, softshell clams and bottom dwelling fish, are the source of commercial fisheries. Other bottom-dwelling organisms, like polychaete worms and crustaceans, give considerably to diets of economically significant fish.

Significance of Benthic Invertebrates:

Benthic invertebrate communities are utilized as prime indicators of environmental conditions as:

  • they have restricted mobility and therefore are not capable to avoid unfavorable conditions;
  • they live in sediments where they are exposed to environmental stressors, like chemical contaminants and low dissolved oxygen levels;
  • their life spans are long sufficient to reflect effects of environmental stressors; and
  • their communities are taxonomically varied enough to react to multiple kinds of stress.

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