Research Technical Report
Adaptations for Scavenging by Three Diverse Bathyal Species, Eptatretus stouti, Neptunea amianta, Orchomene obtusus
Tamburri, M.N., and J.P. Barry (1999)
Deep-Sea Research I 46:2079-2093
Many deep-sea animals derive part of their nutrition from rare and unpredictable food falls. However, traits that allow organisms inhabiting the sea floor to exploit carrion are poorly understood. We found in laboratory experiments that hagfish (Eptatretus stouti), gastropods (Neptunea amianta) and amphipods (Orchomene obtusus) survived extended periods of starvation, in some cases for more than a year. When exposed to odors emitted from carrion, most individuals of E. stouti and O. obtusus began searching for food within seconds, whereas none responded to the scent of the live prey. In contrast, the slow crawling N. amianta readily consumed carrion but showed no apparent response to any odor solutions tested. Because more motile animals exhibited lower thresholds for response to signal molecules, sensitivity to chemical cues appears related to species mobility. Hagfish were also found to defend carrion from some competitors by releasing slime when feeding. Though varying dramatically in size, morphology, locomotive ability, and phylogeny, these three species all possess traits well suited for a scavenging lifestyle.