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Pycnogonid-cnidarian trophic interactions in the deep Monterey Submarine Canyon



Abstract. Whale carcasses, sunken wood, and cold seeps provide organically enriched oases in the food-limited deep-sea benthos. At three such enriched habitats in Monterey Bay, CA, at a depth of nearly 3000 m, we observed pycnogonids (sea spiders) of at least two species, Colossendeis gigas and C. japonica, feeding on sea anemones that were commonly found there. Submersible remotely operated vehicles provided direct observations of feeding, as well as high definition video and photographic images. We recorded the co-occurrence of both pycnogonids and prey anemones during ten of 12 visits during 2002–2006. Anemones and pycnogonids were conspicuously more abundant at these oases than in the surrounding benthos. The sedentary anemone Anthosactis pearseae was attached directly to whalebones while the pom-pom anemone, Liponema brevicornis, was found resting on soft sediment, rolling in benthic currents, or accumulating where these currents were disrupted by topography, as at whale falls, wood falls, and clam fields. Both pycnogonid species were observed feeding on these anemones, either as predators or as micropredators.