Researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts have found that the salp, a 5-inch long, barrel-shaped organism could be the ocean’s most efficient feeders and can consume particles that span a huge size range. Living in mid-ocean waters, this streamlined jellyfish like organism filters the seawater for food particles. For the study, the salps were offered food particles of three sizes – smaller, around the same size as, and larger than the mesh openings.
It was found that that more small particles were captured than expected. The study funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the WHOI Ocean Life Institute not only revealed that salps can survive in the open ocean where the supply of larger food particles is low, but also showed the importance of the salps in carbon cycling.
After eating both small and large particles, the animals release waste, which consists of these particles packed into larger, denser globs that can easily sink to the ocean bottom. The salps can live as either single globs or chains of 100 or more individuals that can draw seawater in through an opening at their front end. The food particles are captured by nanometer-scale mucus net that directs them into the gut where they are digested.