Crustacean zooplankton release copious amounts of dissolved organic matter as taurine in the ocean

Elisabeth L. Clifford, Dennis A. Hansell, Marta M. Varela, Mar Nieto-Cid, Gerhard J. Herndl, Eva Sintes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Taurine (Tau), an amino acid-like compound, is present in almost all marine metazoans including crustacean zooplankton. It plays an important physiological role in these organisms and is released into the ambient water throughout their life cycle. However, limited information is available on the release rates by marine organisms, the concentrations and turnover of Tau in the ocean. We determined dissolved free Tau concentrations throughout the water column and its release by abundant crustacean mesozooplankton at two open ocean sites (Gulf of Alaska and North Atlantic). At both locations, the concentrations of dissolved free Tau were in the low nM range (up to 15.7 nM) in epipelagic waters, declining sharply in the mesopelagic to about 0.2 nM and remaining fairly stable throughout the bathypelagic waters. Pacific amphipod–copepod assemblages exhibited lower dissolved free Tau release rates per unit biomass (0.8 ± 0.4 μmol g−1 C-biomass h−1) than Atlantic copepods (ranging between 1.3 ± 0.4 μmol g−1 C-biomass h−1 and 9.5 ± 2.1 μmol g−1 C-biomass h−1), in agreement with the well-documented inverse relationship between biomass-normalized excretion rates and body size. Our results indicate that crustacean zooplankton might contribute significantly to the dissolved organic matter flux in marine ecosystems via dissolved free Tau release. Based on the release rates and assuming steady state dissolved free Tau concentrations, turnover times of dissolved free Tau range from 0.05 d to 2.3 d in the upper water column and are therefore similar to those of dissolved free amino acids. This rapid turnover indicates that dissolved free Tau is efficiently consumed in oceanic waters, most likely by heterotrophic bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2745-2758
Number of pages14
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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