Pacific Hagfish, Eptatretus stoutii, Spotted Ratfish, Hydrolagus colliei, and Scavenger Activity on Tethered Carrion in Subtidal Benthic Communities off Western Vancouver Island

Sarah Davies, Ali Griffiths, T. E. Reimchen


The influence of pelagic carrion food falls on marine benthic scavenging communities was investigated at two depths (10 m, 50 m) in Barkley Sound, west Vancouver Island, British Columbia from 12 May to 4 June, 2003. A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) equipped with video cameras was used to monitor anchored carrion (15 kg pig leg) during daylight and darkness. The videos were subsequently analyzed for species diversity, abundance and the intensity of scavenging. At 10 m, Redrock Crab (Cancer productus) and Kelp Greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus) dominated, while at 50 m, Spot Shrimp (Pandalus platyceros), Spotted Ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei) and Pacific Hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii) were the dominant species, most of which were nocturnal. Hagfish were the major consumers of the carrion and after 23 days, no soft tissues remained at 50 m while 40% remained at 10 m. Within 24 hours of the carrion deployment, two of eleven ratfish succumbed, probably due to the direct clogging effects of hagfish mucus on the respiratory apparatus of the ratfish. These field observations are consistent with laboratory results suggesting high efficacy of hagfish mucus in competitive interactions.


Pacific Hagfish; Eptatretus stoutii; Spotted Ratfish; Hydrolagus colliei; Spot Shrimp; Pandalus platyceros; Redrock Crab; Cancer productus; Hexagrammos decagrammus; marine scavengers; carrion; remotely operated vehicle (ROV); nutrient cycling

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