On feeding and nutrition in Fungiacava eilatensis (Bivalvia, Mytilidae), a commensal living in fungiid corals



The enlarged inhalant siphon of Fungiacava eilatensis opens into the coelenteron of species of fungiid corals with which it lives in commensal association. Material consisting of mucus, zooxanthellae, nematocysts, plankton and inorganic matter, is taken exclusively from the coelenteron. The very mobile foot possibly assists in food collection and in the removal of pseudofaeces; but, with large ctenidia, the bivalve is a typical ciliary feeder. Experiments with labelled zooxanthellae reveal that these are taken into the gut of Fungiacava with subsequent metabolic incorporation of products derived from them. The other prime source of food must be phytoplankton carried in with the feeding currents of the coral, itself carnivorous so that there is no competition for food between commensal and host. The Fungiazooxanthella–Fungiacava association operates as a “Troika” the productivity of which is autoregulated in proportion to the number of bivalves present. The inorganic wastes of the bivalve (as well as those of the coral) are utilized by the zooxanthellae, resultant increase in the algal component becoming available as food to the bivalve. Losses in the cycle are balanced by intake of exogenous food.