Feeding behaviour and feeding ecology of the Octocorallia (Coelenterata: Anthozoa)



The feeding behaviour of some 30 species of Octocorallia was examined in the laboratory and in the field. All of the species from the Orders–Alcyonacea, Gorgonacea, Stolonifera and Telestacea, appear to have a common, basic feeding strategy. Fine particulate matter and zooplankton were captured in a raptorial manner by the tentacles and pinnules. Upon capture of food particles, the tentacles were flexed rapidly inwards and closed or wiped across the mouth. At the same time the mouth opened and ingestion was accomplished by directional ciliary currents in the mouth and the pharynx. Food capture by means of mesenterial filaments, mucus strands or ciliary currents was not observed. The examination of gut contents of Alcyonacea showed that they feed upon zooplankton. Epibenthic copepods from the demersal coral reef zooplankton were an important element of the diet of alcyonaceans.