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The supply of detritus is an important food source for many soft-sediment invertebrates, but its importance for their growth and condition is rarely, if ever, tested directly using manipulative field experiments. Therefore, we designed such a study to: (1) test the importance of fine particulate organic matter for the growth and condition of the infaunal bivalve Soletellina alba; (2) indirectly test the feeding mode of S. alba, which has been assumed to be a deposit feeder like other members of the same superfamily (Tellinoidea); (3) compare growth rates across two summers with contrasting patterns of estuary mouth opening/closing; and (4) compare the condition of individuals used in two field studies (i.e. present versus past) and a past laboratory study. Neither growth nor condition differed when organic content of the sediments was varied, which suggests that S. alba is either a suspension feeder or capable of switching modes of feeding. There was considerable interannual variation in growth with greater growth occurring during the summer with a longer period of mouth opening. This suggests that periods of mouth closure may reduce secondary production within seasonally-closed estuaries. Potential artefacts associated with laboratory trials were also identified, with laboratory bivalves exhibiting poorer condition than those used in two field trials. The present study provides no evidence that variable quantities and qualities of organic matter within the sediments influence the growth and condition of S. alba, but future studies should focus on food supplied via the water column when the estuary is open versus closed.
Journal: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science - Volume 78, Issue 1, 1 June 2008, Pages 145–154