Scientia Marina, Vol 73, No 2 (2009)

Feeding guild composition of a macrobenthic subtidal community along a depth gradient

Marina Dolbeth
Institute of Marine Research (IMAR) University of Coimbra , Portugal

Heliana Teixeira
Institute of Marine Research (IMAR) University of Coimbra , Portugal

João Carlos Marques
Institute of Marine Research (IMAR) University of Coimbra , Portugal

Miguel Ângelo Pardal
Institute of Marine Research (IMAR) University of Coimbra , Portugal


The feeding guild composition of a macrobenthic community from southern Portugal was studied along a depth gradient (1.3 to 32 m). This gradient comprised shallow areas with severe physical stress and deeper areas with no significant hydrodynamic impact at the seafloor. The main goal was to determine the influence of the spatial and temporal differences of the hydrodynamic impact at the seafloor on the feeding guild composition of the macrobenthic community. The feeding guild composition changed gradually with depth, which reflects the differences in the hydrodynamics impact at the seafloor. Herbivores and sand-lickers dominated at the shallowest depths with fine sands, which correlated with higher levels of primary production. Scavengers were also distributed in the shallow areas, which was associated with the lower predation impact. Suspension feeders, in accordance with their physiological requirements, were distributed in coarser sands subjected to a physical impact. Carnivores, surface deposit feeders and sub-surface deposit feeders were distributed mainly below 8 m depth, where there was no significant impact from the wave climate. Carnivores were associated with coarser sands and were mainly small polychaetes and nemerteans. Sub-surface and surface deposit feeders were more abundant in the deepest areas of the depth gradient with fine sands and mud deposits with higher organic content. However, surface deposit feeders also occurred at shallower depths. Some seasonal differences related to disturbance impacts were found in the numerical dominance of the feeding guilds.


macrobenthic community; feeding guilds; depth gradient; hydrodynamics

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