One 8-day-old Seriatopora caliendrum recruit capturing (a), subduing (b), and ingesting (c–d) live Artemia nauplii over 14 min.
We all know how important it is to properly feed our corals. Properly fed corals are more robust and healthy, and zooplankton capture can even help them recover faster from bleaching episodes. Researchers did not know until recently, though, how soon corals begin feeding on zooplankton after settlement and metamorphosis.
Published recently in the journal Coral Reefs, researchers Cumbo, Fan, and Edmunds investigated this question and documented the results in their paper “Scleractinian corals capture zooplankton within days of settlement and metamorphosis.”
Their research centered on the scleractinian coral Seriatopora caliendrum, a coral that is known to actively feed on Artemia nauplii. They found that S. caliendrum was able to successfully capture and ingest Artemia within eight days of recruitment. As Artemia swam by, the tiny coral polyps stretched out their tentacles, captured the nauplii (supposedly using their nematocysts) and pulled them into their mouths within 10-20 minutes. One polyp was even observed to pull five Artemia into its mouth within one hour. Talk about an appetite!
This study again underlines the importance of properly feeding the animals in our care.