THE BEHAVIOR OF THE SCYPHOMEDUSAE CHRYSAORA QUINQUECIRRHA AND AURELIA AURITA AND ITS ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE
Matanoski, Joseph Carroll
Hood, Raleigh R
Purcell, Jennifer E
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Scyphomedusae are important components in trophic and community structures of marine and estuarine systems worldwide. Behavior likely has a significant influence on medusa population dynamics and growing evidence points to the disproportionate effect individual behavior has on population responses, yet there are few quantitative studies of medusa behavior and no method for quantifying the behavior of individual pelagic organisms. A numerical model of medusa swimming behavior would be an important tool for assessing its effect on spatial patterns and foraging efficiency. An approach was developed that uses a suite of statistical techniques to quantitatively describe time-dependent changes in behavior of pelagic organisms and tested on the swimming behavior of Aurelia aurita and the foraging behavior of Chrysaora quinquecirrha. An individual-based model of medusa swimming behavior was formulated as a correlated random walk of velocity vectors in three dimensions. Each A. aurita medusa exhibited a unique swimming behavior, including varying swimming bell pulsations, speed, and turning at characteristic frequencies. C. quinquecirrha swam in mostly linear trajectories that alternated between periods of slow and fast swimming while searching for prey, but swam at a constant moderate rate with increased anisotropic turning while feeding. Foraging behavior by medusa groups depended on interindividual and intraindividual variability in medusa behavior, including deterministic changes in swimming pulsation strength and turning. Empirical and model results showed that variability of behavior among medusae and by individual medusae over time are integral components determining the aggregated population response. Medusa foraging behavior appears adapted for patchily distributed prey. Alternating between slow and fast swimming while searching for prey may minimize energy expended while periodically generating prey-entraining currents. Increased turning in the presence of prey increases the likelihood of remaining in prey patches. Anisotropic turning created vertically spiraling paths, well suited to horizontally compressed prey patches. Model results demonstrated that medusae tend to swim toward and accumulate at the surface, avoid direct contact with the bottom, orient search patterns to long-range stimuli (e.g. gravity) and feeding patterns to local stimuli (e.g. prey contact), and exhibit periodicities of velocity outside prey patches and turning within patches that result from deterministic behavior.