User:Hetmann/Main Project Idea

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More information forthcoming! - Lots of articles to peruse and summarize below ...


Salps are tunicates, large planktonic organisms that have the fastest growth rates of any multicellular organism. Thalia democratica seems to be the most common of the salps.

Salps are useful because the fecal pellets of the salps sink quickly, and it is proposed that the salps are responsible for much of the carbon sequestering that is currently occuring. Furthermore these organisms may assist in sequestering even more carbon dioxide produced from the burning of fossil fuels.

There are conflicting reports based on the fecal pellets of the salps:

  • One contention is that the fecal pellets contributes materials in the ocean, and provide food for bathypelagic and benthic organisms.
    • The Bathypelagic zone is a subzone in the pelagic zone, from 1000m to 4000m below the surface of the ocean. Bathypelagic organisms live in this region.
    • Likewise, benthic organisms live in the benthic zone, which is defined as the lowest level of a body of water.
  • The more widespread notion is that the fecal pellets are not directly consumed, and are in essence a dead-end for carbon.
    • One support for this argument is the rate at which the pellet sink, which range from 320 to 2 238 meters/day.
    • Hypothesized that the fecal pellets disintegrate at the bottom of the ocean.

Possible Utilization

It is reported in the Guardian article "Ocean pumps 'could cut carbon dioxide'" that one group, Atmocean Inc., wants to utilize pipes that transport nutrient rich water from the deep ocean to the surface in order to increase growth in phytoplankton, the food source of the salps. In their presentation at the Electric Utility Environmental Conference, Atmocean claims that some biologists estimate a 5-fold increase in biomass due to the upwelling (but they don't list sources). Furthermore, the company believes that utilizing salps will potentially sequester 29% of current carbon emission (additionally proposing that this project may cost 1-1.6 trillion dollars over 10 years).

Other possible methods to utilize salps forthcoming (help from others in the class?).


This paper, "Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide," indicates that the amount of dissolved carbon dioxide in the ocean is increasing.


  • Huskin et al.: Total salp abundance ranged from 4 to 4500 ind m−2, representing biomass values between 0.2 and 2750 mg C m−2
  • L. P. Madin1 et al. : Sinking velocities of the salps fecal pellets are very high ranged from 320 to 2 238 m d-1.
  • M. W. Silver1 and K. W. Bruland1 :

Many of these articles are accessible online, for a fee of $35. Does anyone know if Harvard has an alternative access to these links?

One hypothesis from this article, "Salp distribution and grazing in a saline intrusion off NW Spain," is that salps fecal pellets disintegrate in deep water (in the portion of the ocean that is not exposed to sunlight).

Improving Reproduction [1]

Feeding process [2]

Unsummarized Readings

Seasonal abundance & distribution in S. China Sea [3]

Species composition and abundance distribution in the Nanwan Bay of Taiwan, China (this article has not been located)[4]

References to other papers (found in the paper "Salp distribution and grazing in a saline intrusion off NW Spain," Huskin et al.) [5]

"Mass sedimentation of picoplankton embedded in organic aggregates," Waite et al. [6]

"Clearance of picoplankton-sized partides and formation of rapidly sinking aggregates by the pteropod, Limacina reiroversa," Noji et al. [7]


"Comparative Role of Salps and Other Zooplankton in the Cycling and Transport of Selected Elements and Natural Radionuclides in Mediterranean Waters", Krishnaswami et al. [9]


"The contribution of microorganisms to particulate carbon and nitrogen in surface waters of the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda", Caron et al.[11]

"Zooplankton vertical migration and the active transport of dissolved organic and inorganic carbon in the Sargasso Sea", Steinberg et al.[12]


Wikipedia link to salps [14]

Additional link from wikipedia[15]

Further reading: Edgar, G.J. 1997. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books. Pp. 544.

An aid to the detailed examination of salps (Tunicata: Salpidae) : image, 1965. J. mar. biol. Ass., U.K., 45 (3): 679–681. • ABSTRACT Deep Sea Research and Oceanographic Abstracts, Volume 13, Issue 4, August 1966, Page 774 [16]

Iseki, K., 1981. Particulate organic matter transport to the deep sea by salp fecal pellets. Mar. Ecol.-Prog. Ser., 5(I):55-60. [17]

"Individual growth rates of salps in three populations" Heron and Benham JOURNAL OF PLANKTON RESEARCH

Silver, M.W. and K.W. Bruland, 1981. Differential feeding and fecal pellet composition of salps and pteropods, and the possible origin of deepwater flora and olive-green cells. Mar. Biol.. 62(4):263-273.

Dissolved and fecal pellet carbon and nitrogen release by zooplankton in tropical waters Deep Sea Research Part A. Oceanographic Research Papers, Volume 30, Issue 12, December 1983, Pages 1199-1220 Small et al.


Helpful links: [19],

Problems with Salps

Salps have natural predators: leopard seals [20]

In this article, "Climate change gauged by a whisker", published 19 July 2006, it states that scientists tested the seals' whiskers to determine the diet of the seals. They found that the seals are consuming fewer penguins and krill but more salps. Conclusion: good news for penguins and krill, bad news for global warming.

Furthermore, salps are food for many fishes (link to article about salps).