Scientia Marina, Vol 74, No 2 (2010)

Feeding on protists and particulates by the leptocephali of the worm eels Myrophis spp. (Teleostei: Anguilliformes: Ophichthidae), and the potential energy contribution of large aloricate protozoa

John Jeffrey Govoni
NOAA, National Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research , United States


The food sources of the leptocephali of the teleostean superorder Elopomorpha have been controversial, yet observations on the leptocephali of the worm eels, Myrophis spp. (family Ophichthidae) collected in the northern Gulf of Mexico indicate active, not passive, feeding. Leptocephali had protists in their alimentary canals. Estimates of the physiological energetics of worm eels indicate that large aloricate protozoa including ciliates could provide substantial energy to these leptocephali toward the end of the premetamorphic and metamorphic stages, given the low energy requirements of metamorphosing leptocephali. Global ocean warming will likely force a shift in oceanic food webs; a shift away from large protozoa toward smaller protists is possible. Such a disruption of the oceanic food webs could further compromise the survival of leptocephali.


Myrophis; leptocephali; feeding; protozoa; ciliates

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