Mechanics and Selectivity of Filtration by Tunicates
MetadataShow full item record
The preferential grazing of an organism on certain particles from the environment (selective feeding) impacts particle compositions and distributions in aquatic systems. Historically, selective feeding has been examined almost exclusively through the lens of particle size. In this dissertation, I investigated size-based selection alongside particle shape, adhesive interactions, and the mechanical operation of the filter to characterize the selective-feeding capabilities of marine mucous-mesh filter-feeders (the planktonic appendicularian Oikopleura dioica and the benthic ascidians Herdmania momus and Styela plicata). I used high-speed videography to describe the feeding-filter mechanics of O. dioica and tested its capacity for size-based particle selection. I show for the first time how pulsatile flow coupled with elasticity of the filter facilitates prey detachment. Using synthetic beads, I showthat the food-concentrating filter selectively retains smaller particles because of their increased adhesion. Appendicularian houses may therefore retain particles size-selectively, which counters the historically-held assumption that appendicularians are non-selective grazers. I synthesized ellipsoidal microbeads to test the effect of particle length-to-width ratios on the capture efficiency of O. dioica and S. plicata. Both grazers retained ellipsoidal particles according to their minimum diameter. I identified the kinematic mechanism for retention patterns of ellipsoidal particles using high-speed videography and endoscopy of particle interactions with the mucous filters of O. dioica and H. momus, respectively. In the filters of both animals, ellipsoids oriented parallel to fluid streamlines and the minimum dimension of the particle intercepted the filters. I provide the first mesh-scale observations of particle capture by H. momus, show how particle shape influences hydrosol filtration by S. plicata, and suggest that ascidian filtration may not be adequately described by simple sieving.