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See detailCorsican seagrass detritus: An opportune shelter or a copepod Eldorado?
Mascart, Thibaud ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Remy, François ULg et al

Poster (2014, March 07)

Seagrass ecosystems are extensive beds of marine flowering plants bordering tropical and temperate coastal regions. They play an important role in maintaining biological productivity and bio-geochemical ... [more ▼]

Seagrass ecosystems are extensive beds of marine flowering plants bordering tropical and temperate coastal regions. They play an important role in maintaining biological productivity and bio-geochemical cycles in the sea and support higher diversity and abundance of fauna in comparison to adjacent non-vegetated areas. The seagrass meadow primary production can be directly consumed through herbivory but the majority of the plant material falls on the sea floor during the autumnal leaf senescence. The leaf litter then degrades within the meadow or accumulates with other micro- and macrophytodetritus to form detritus accumulations on the adjacent non-vegetated sand patches. These exported accumulations are quite dynamic in relation to seafloor geomorphology and local hydrodynamics. Thus, the detritus accumulations are an easily disturbed ephemeral environment with one large influx a year. Consequently the physico-chemical characteristics can change very fast and impact the sheltering capacity and food supply present. Nonetheless, fishes, macrofauna and meiofauna are omnipresent throughout the year. In our study site along the shore of N-W Corsica, Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows are characterised by substantial detritus accumulations. The present study aimed to analyse the biodiversity of the copepod species communities (Crustacea, Copepoda) in those detritus accumulations. The results showed that the copepod detritus community consisted of a mixture of species that are also found in adjacent habitats (seagrass meadow, sediment, epilithic habitats, water column). Each adjacent habitat is characterised by organisms that are morphologically adapted to the specific features of that habitat. The majority of copepods are epiphytic (order Harpacticoida), that occur typically on seagrass leaves and macroalgae. Other species are planktonic (orders Cyclopoida and Calanoida) and some were benthic (order Harpacticoida), known from the nearby sediment. A minority of the copepod community were parasitic on fish or invertebrate (order Siphonostomatoida). In order to clarify their origin, we assume that passive transport by currents plays a significant role next to the active migration from the anoxic sediments under the detritus. For sure they also reproduce within the detritus packages as we found many nauplii, copepodites and gravid females. The above mentioned suggestions cannot explain such high density of copepods by themselves. Other attraction mechanisms are needed to explain the important amount of planktonic and epiphytic species with good swimming ability, such as higher food accessibility. In the detritus no plant-defence mechanisms are present anymore and a lot of micro-organisms and thus potential food sources are present. Furthermore, the dense detritus package provides shelter and protection from potential predators. Subsequently we may consider the detritus accumulations as a copepod species-specific opportune Eldorado for sheltering, nursing and feeding. [less ▲]

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See detailL'arbre du vivant: la faune
Dauby, Patrick ULg; Hindryckx, Marie-Noëlle ULg; Laschet, Mélanie ULg et al

Article for general public (2012)

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See detailL'arbre du vivant: la flore
Dauby, Patrick ULg; Hindryckx, Marie-Noëlle ULg; Laschet, Mélanie ULg et al

Article for general public (2012)

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See detailLeaf fall impact on diversity and trophic ecology of vagile macrofauna associated with exported P.oceanica litter
Remy, François ULg; Mascart, Thibaud ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg et al

Poster (2012, August 20)

In the Mediterranean Sea, Posidonia oceanica meadows produce a huge amount of detritus, evaluated up to 300 to 2000 g dry wt m-2 yr-1. This litter is mainly composed of dead leaves but also of uprooted P ... [more ▼]

In the Mediterranean Sea, Posidonia oceanica meadows produce a huge amount of detritus, evaluated up to 300 to 2000 g dry wt m-2 yr-1. This litter is mainly composed of dead leaves but also of uprooted P.oceanica shoots and drift macro-algae from adjacent rocky bottoms. Although rich in refractory materials (lignin) and poor in P and N, these underwater accumulations of leaves are colonised by fungi, micro-algae (like diatoms), bacteria, but also by micro and macrofauna assemblages. These organisms could play an important role in leaf litter degradation and enrichment, but also in energy and carbon transfer from P.oceanica to higher trophic levels in adjacent coastal ecosystems. In this study we focus on the vagile macro-fauna (invertebrates with a size > 500µm) inhabiting the exported litter accumulations of the Calvi Bay (France). We took standardised samples at two different sites (a sheltered one and an exposed one) before and after leaf fall. We emphasised that crustaceans represent 65 – 85% of the biodiversity, followed by annelids and molluscs, representing respectively 10-20% and 10-15% of the diversity. That general pattern differs between sampling sites and we highlighted changes after leaf fall at both sites. In order to assess the impact of the autumn period litter input on the trophic structure of these invertebrates, we conducted gut contents observations and “bulk” stable isotope analysis. The isotopic compositions of C and N stable isotopes of the potential detritic food sources and of the most abundant invertebrate’s species were measured using EA-IRMS. We finally focused on the two most abundant Gammaridean Amphipoda species representing up to about 60% of the vagile macrofauna found in litter accumulations: Gammarella fucicola and Gammarus aequicauda. The results of their isotopic measurements were used in the “SIAR” Bayesian mixing model to calculate the potential contribution of their potential food sources. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic tracers reveal considerable diversity among diets of dominant amphipods from Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

Poster (2012, August 20)

Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows shelter a high biomass and an important biodiversity of amphipod crustaceans. In other temperate meadows, the amphipods play an important part in the functioning ... [more ▼]

Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows shelter a high biomass and an important biodiversity of amphipod crustaceans. In other temperate meadows, the amphipods play an important part in the functioning of the ecosystem, notably in organic matter transfers from producers to higher level consumers. However, the situation in Posidonia oceanica meadows remains unclear, and little is known about the trophic ecology of amphipods, which are generally regarded as generalist herbivores/detritivores despite the lack of precise studies. Here, we combined gut content examination and trophic markers (fatty acids, stables isotopes of C and N) to delineate the diet of the dominant species of amphipods from Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows and to highlight trophic diversity among this community. Our results indicate that contribution of microepiphytic diatoms and of benthic and suspended particulate organic matter to the diet of amphipods were anecdotal. On the other hand, all dominant species heavily relied on macroalgal epiphytes, suggesting a certain extent of overlapping in the diets of the dominant species. Considerable interspecific differences nonetheless existed, notably concerning grazing preferences towards epiphytes from leaves or litter fragments vs. epiphytes from rhizomes. In addition, the use of the SIAR isotopic mixing model showed that most species had a mixed diet, and relied on several food items. None of the examined species seemed to graze on their seagrass host, but Gammarus aequicauda partly relied on seagrass leaf detritus. Overall, our findings demonstrate that amphipods have the potential to be key-items in trophic and functional interactions occurring among Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows. [less ▲]

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See detailA descriptive study of physico-chemical characteristics of Posidonia oceanica litter accumulation
Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Borges, Alberto ULg; Darchambeau, François ULg et al

Poster (2012)

The Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica meadow losses every fall the major part of its leaf biomass after senescing. These phytodetritus may decay within the meadow, be buried or be exported to ... [more ▼]

The Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica meadow losses every fall the major part of its leaf biomass after senescing. These phytodetritus may decay within the meadow, be buried or be exported to other habitats. They form large litter accumulations, notably on shallow water sand patches. Such accumulation host many organisms which participate to the degradation of this material. In a first step to understand the dynamics of these accumulations and of their associated biota, we have characterised their physico-chemical heterogeneity at different seasons. We measured the dissolved oxygen, nutrients and sulphide concentrations in interstitial waters from litter accumulations varying regarding their phytodetritus composition, fragmentation level and thickness. Results show that oxygen conditions were highly variable depending on litter thickness but also on local hydrodynamics. Anoxic conditions and presence of sulphide were sometimes measured, particularly in very thick litter or in degraded litter at the end of summer. Colonies of sulphur-oxidising bacteria were observed. Litter accumulations were also often enriched in ammonium and, sometimes, in dissolved phosphorus. It is not clear whether this results from the litter degradation within the accumulation or whether this is a consequence of a barrier effect between sediment and water column. Nevertheless, this makes litter accumulations particularly attractive for micro-phytobenthic producers. Litter accumulations appear as key habitats both to understand the dead-face of seagrass dynamics and its consequence for C cycle in coastal areas and to study the consequence of hypoxia on biodiversity in a natural context. [less ▲]

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See detailBIANZO II: Biodiversity of three representative groups of the Antarctic Zoobenthos - Coping with Change
Ingels, Jeroen; Vanreusel, Ann; De Broyer, Claude et al

Report (2012)

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See detailOrganisms as ecosystems engineers: the case of amphipod grazers from Posidonia oceanica meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg; Schnitzler, Joseph ULg; Dupont, Alessandra et al

Poster (2011, February 25)

Posidonia oceanica is a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, and is able to form large monospecific areas, called meadows. These meadows shelter high biomasses and biodiversities of amphipod ... [more ▼]

Posidonia oceanica is a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, and is able to form large monospecific areas, called meadows. These meadows shelter high biomasses and biodiversities of amphipod crustaceans. Moreover, It is now established that several species of these amphipods feed on the macro-epiphytes present on the leaves of the seagrass. Here, we performed in situ experiments to assess whether this grazing activity could impact the dynamics of the leaves’ epiphytic cover, and thus influence the functioning of the meadow as an ecosystem. We used microcosms containing monospecific populations of 3 amphipods taxa (Apherusa chiereghinii, Dexamine spiniventris and Gammarus spp.), and placed them directly in the meadow, at a depth of 10m. Biomasses of erected macroalgae and erected animals (hydrozoans, bryozoans) were lower in all grazed treatments. However, none of the studied taxa seemed to consume encrusting epiphytes, either vegetal or animal. This selective grazing pressure by amphipods may release encrusting epiphytes from competition for space, light and/or nutriments with the fast-growing erected algae, and could thus play an important role in the structuring of the epiphytic cover from P. oceanica leaves. Moreover, this top-down control might keep erected algae biomass to a normal, sustainable level, therefore also benefiting the seagrass itself. Our results also indicate that amphipod trophic activity caused nitrogen enrichment in both grazed (erected algae) and non-grazed (encrusting algae & seagrass leaves) vegetal tissues. A plausible interpretation could be that sloppy feeding and excretion by the grazers enhanced availability of this nutrient, which is typically limiting for photosynthesis in shallow P. oceanica meadows. This emphasizes the fact that grazing is not a simple negative interaction, but that it can also benefit the primary producers. Our results thus indicate that amphipods from P. oceanica meadows seem to be bound to the epiphytic cover of the leaves by complex and multilateral trophic interactions, and have an indirect influence on the seagrass itself. Amphipods may therefore play an important part in the functioning of the epiphyte/seagrass/grazer system of these meadows, and thus act as ecosystems engineers. This abstract is dedicated to the freshly born Adèle and Côme. [less ▲]

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See detailThe role of meiofauna in energy transfer in a Mediterranean seagrass bed (Calvi, Corsica)
MASCART, THIBAUD; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Borges, Alberto ULg et al

Poster (2010, October 22)

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See detailThe role of meiofauna in energy transfer in a Mediterranean seagrass bed (Calvi, Corsica
Mascart, Thibaud ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Borges, Alberto ULg et al

Poster (2010, October 22)

Meiofaunal communities of the endemic Mediterranean seagrass, <u> Posidonia oceanica </u>, were sampled in five different habitats characterised by different degradation level of macrophytodetritus. In ... [more ▼]

Meiofaunal communities of the endemic Mediterranean seagrass, <u> Posidonia oceanica </u>, were sampled in five different habitats characterised by different degradation level of macrophytodetritus. In term of abundance, harpacticoid copepods represent half of the community followed by nematodes and polychaetes. Two meiofauna communities were distinguished: (1) a benthic community of meiofauna, living in the sediment or on highly fragmented macrophytodetritus, and (2) a foliar, epiphytal community associated with seagrass leaves and low fragmented macrophytodetritus leaves. They differed significantly in their harpacticoid copepod family composition. The benthic community consisted mainly of families like Tisbidae and Miraciidae, while the epiphytal community was dominated by families like Thalestridae and Laophontidae. These differences in composition may also imply a differential functional diversity. Trophic biomarkers (stable isotopes, fatty acids) were used to identify the major sources of organic matter contributing to the copepods diet and hence to gain insight in the overall carbon flux. Harpacticoid copepods showed preferences to feed upon the epiphytal biofilm community composed of bacteria, diatoms, fungi and microalgae. Copepods used the seagrass and detritus material merely as substrate, but were attracted to the biofilm rather than the plant material which is rich in structural carbohydrates difficult to assimilate by animals (i.e. lignin, cellulose, ...). Since harpacticoid copepods showed to use different sources of carbon, unravelling the contribution of each of them and the role of the degradation level of the detritus for food selectivity is the next step forward. [less ▲]

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See detailImpact of grazing by amphipods on the epiphytic cover of the Posidonia oceanica leaves: an in situ experiment.
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dupont, Alessandra; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

Poster (2010, October 22)

It is now established that several species of amphipods associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows consume the macro-epiphytes present on the leaves of the seagrass. Moreover, under controlled ... [more ▼]

It is now established that several species of amphipods associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows consume the macro-epiphytes present on the leaves of the seagrass. Moreover, under controlled in vitro conditions, three amphipod taxa (Apherusa chiereghinii,Dexamine spiniventris and Gammarus spp.) are able to drastically deplete the biomass of erected algae, thus influencing the epiphytic cover in both a quantitative and a qualitative way. Here, we tried to assess whether this strong and complex trophic interaction was realized in the field. We designed an in situ experiment that used microcosms placed directly in the meadow, at a depth of 10m, to estimate the impact of grazing by the aforementioned amphipod taxa on the dynamics of the epiphytic cover. Both Gammarus spp. and Dexamine spiniventris caused a significant decrease of the biomass of erected algae and erected animals (bryozoans and hydrozoans). Impact of grazing by Apherusa chiereghinii on these two epiphytic groups was less important, although strong but marginally non-significant (0,1>p>0,05) trends to lower biomasses were present. None of the considered taxa seemed to consume encrusting macro-epiphytes. In addition, assimilation of epiphyte-derived carbon and nitrogen by grazers was monitored using stable isotopes (13C and 15N), and epiphyte elemental content (C & N) was measured. Our results shed light on trophic interactions between the amphipods from Posidonia oceanica meadows and the seagrass epiphytic cover, and thus enhance our understanding of the role of these grazers in the functioning of the meadow as an ecosystem. [less ▲]

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See detailImpact of grazing by amphipods on the dynamics of the epiphytic cover of the Posidonia oceanica leaves : an in vitro experiment.
Michel, Loïc ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg et al

Conference (2010, September 17)

It is now established that several species of amphipods associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows consume the epiphytes present on the leaves of the seagrass. However, little or no work has ... [more ▼]

It is now established that several species of amphipods associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows consume the epiphytes present on the leaves of the seagrass. However, little or no work has been undertaken to quantify this interaction. Here, we present the results of an in vitro experiment that used seagrass mimics to estimate the impact of grazing by the amphipods Apherusa chiereghinii, Dexamine spiniventris and Gammarus spp on the dynamics of the epiphytic cover. All species reduced epiphyte biomass in a significant way, and grazers preferentially fed on erected algae. Assimilation of epiphyte-derived carbon and nitrogen was monitored using stable isotopes (13C and 15N) labelling, and was obvious in the three taxa. Moreover, grazing activity of amphipods seemed to influence epiphyte physiology, notably by increasing nitrogen uptake by the erected algae. These results shed light on trophic interactions between the amphipods from Posidonia oceanica meadows and the seagrass epiphytic cover, and thus enhance our understanding of the role of these grazers in the functioning of the meadow as an ecosystem. [less ▲]

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See detailSampling methods for amphipods of Posidonia oceanica meadows: a comparative study
Michel, Loïc ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg et al

in Crustaceana (2010), 83(1), 39-47

Efficient sampling of amphipod crustaceans associated with Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile meadows is difficult, due to their complex community structure and to the heterogeneity of the meadows. Here we ... [more ▼]

Efficient sampling of amphipod crustaceans associated with Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile meadows is difficult, due to their complex community structure and to the heterogeneity of the meadows. Here we compare three sampling techniques: the hand-towed net, the air-lift, and light traps. Each of the methods shows specific advantages and disadvantages, hence the most important feature to consider in the choice of the method would be its adequacy with regard to the study purpose. Moreover, the most accurate way to sample amphipods from P. oceanica meadows could be to combine several methods, keeping in mind their respective strengths and weaknesses, and to adapt the sampling protocol to the aims of the study at issue. [less ▲]

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See detailMultidisciplinary study of the trophic diversity and functional role of amphipod crustaceans associated to Posidonia oceanica meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

Poster (2009, November 27)

Posidonia oceanica is a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, and is able to form large monospecific areas, called meadows. These meadows are critical features of the Mediterranean coastal zones, and ... [more ▼]

Posidonia oceanica is a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, and is able to form large monospecific areas, called meadows. These meadows are critical features of the Mediterranean coastal zones, and are of great ecologic and economic importance. Posidonia oceanica meadows shelter high biomasses and biodiversities of amphipod crustaceans. In other temperate meadows, such as Atlantic Zostera marina meadows, the amphipods play an important part in the functioning of the ecosystem, notably in organic matter transfers from producers to higher level consumers. However, the situation in Posidonia oceanica meadows remains unclear, due to the lack of precise studies, and little is known about the trophic ecology of amphipods. In this context, our research is structured in three main tasks. We chose the Calvi Bay (NW Corsica, France) as a study site, and sampling is undertaken from the STARESO research station (University of Liège, Belgium). First, we study the exact composition of the amphipod community, as well as its temporal variation at diel and seasonal scale. This task is based on in situ collection of samples using three methods: the hand-towed net, litter collection and light traps. Completion of this task will allow us to have accurate and reliable data, taken on our study site, concerning the abundance and specific diversity of amphipods associated with P. oceanica meadows. The second task is a reconstruction of the diet of the studied animals. Indeed, amphipods from P. oceanica meadows are usually regarded as vegetal epiphytes grazers, or generalist detritivores, but few studies focus on the interspecific trophy diversity, or on the importance of alternative food sources. Our approach relies on in situ sampling of amphipods and potential food items. The techniques used combine traditional methods (gut content observation) and use of trophic markers, such as measurements of C and N stable isotope rations and fatty acid composition analysis. Finally, we use in vitro and in situ microcosms experiments to evaluate the impact of amphipod feeding activity on the ecosystem functioning, and more precisely on the dynamics of the epiphyte cover. By quantifying this interaction, our purpose is to put back the results obtained in the first two parts into a wider context, the functioning of the Posidonia oceanica meadow as an ecosystem. Thus, by combining in situ sampling and in vitro experimentation, and by combining traditional and innovating techniques, we hope, at the end of this research, to enhance the knowledge of the trophic diversity and the functional role of amphipod crustaceans associated with Mediterranean Posidonia meadows. [less ▲]

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See detailUse of C & N stable isotopes to evaluate interspecific trophic diversity among amphipods from Posidonia oceanica meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Nyssen, Fabienne ULg et al

Poster (2009, January 27)

Amphipods are one of the most diverse and abundant taxa of vagile invertebrates associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows. Therefore, they likely play an essential part in those ecosystems’ ... [more ▼]

Amphipods are one of the most diverse and abundant taxa of vagile invertebrates associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows. Therefore, they likely play an essential part in those ecosystems’ functioning, notably in organic matter transfers from producers to higher level consumers. Nevertheless, their trophic ecology remains poorly known, and they are generally regarded as epiflora grazers or generalist detritivores. Here, we focused on interspecific trophic diversity, and on the importance of other food sources (epifauna, Posidonia leaves & litter, suspended organic matter, …) in those amphipod’s diet. To achieve these goals, we used C and N stable isotopes ratios as trophic tracers. We noticed considerable trophic diversity among amphipods from different species, with δ13C values ranging from -16 to -26 ‰. Moreover, while some species (such as Apherusa chiereghinii and Aora spinicornis) seem to feed mainly on epiphytes, others, like Dexamine spiniventris, exploit other food sources. This study enhances the comprehension of the feeding ecology of these amphipods, and therefore of the way they interact with the Posidonia meadow ecosystem. [less ▲]

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See detailBiodiversity of three representative groups of the Antarctic zoobenthos - Coping with change (BIANZO II)
Raes, Maarten; Vanreusel, Ann; Pasotti, Francesca et al

Report (2009)

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See detailTrophic diversity among amphipod crustaceans from Posidonia oceanica meadows : A stable isotope assessment
Michel, Loïc ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

Conference (2008, October 31)

Vagile invertebrates are regarded as key-components of Posidonia oceanica meadow ecosystems, particularly in organic matter transfers from primary producers to higher level consumers. Among these ... [more ▼]

Vagile invertebrates are regarded as key-components of Posidonia oceanica meadow ecosystems, particularly in organic matter transfers from primary producers to higher level consumers. Among these invertebrates, amphipod crustaceans are one of the most abundant and diverse groups, and probably play an important role in meadow ecosystem functioning. However, their trophic ecology is poorly known, and these crustaceans are generally regarded as vegetal epiphytes consumers or generalist detritivores, due to the lack of accurate studies. Here, we focused on the study of the interspecific trophic diversity, and on the importance of other food sources (Posidonia leaves and litter, animal epiphytes, suspended particular organic matter, …) in those amphipods’ diet. To assess these phenomena, we used stable isotopes ratios of carbon and nitrogen as trophic tracers. It appears that, while some species (such as Apherusa chiereghinii and Aora spinicornis) seem to feed mainly on epiphytes, others, like Dexamine spiniventris, exploit different food sources. These results thus tend to show that amphipod trophic diversity could have been underestimated in the past. Moreover, they enhance the comprehension of the feeding ecology of these animals, and therefore of the way they interact with the Posidonia meadow ecosystem. [less ▲]

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See detail15th Benelux Congress of Zoology abstract book
Colleye, Orphal ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg; Fabri, Gregory et al

Book published by Editions de l'université de Liège (2008)

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