The uptake and utilization of dissolved organic matter (DOM) by marine invertebrates is a field that has received significant attention over the past 100 years. Although it is well established that DOM is taken up by marine invertebrates, the extent to which it contributes to an animal's survival, growth, and reproduction (that is, the ecological benefits) remains largely unknown. Previous work seeking to demonstrate the putative ecological benefits of DOM uptake have examined them within a single life stage of an animal. Moreover, most of the benefits are demonstrated through indirect approaches by examining (1) mass balance, or (2) making comparisons of oxyenthalpic conversions of transport rates to metabolic rate as judged by oxygen consumption. We suggest that directly examining delayed metamorphosis or the latent effects associated with nutritional stress of larvae is a better model for investigating the ecological importance of DOM to marine invertebrates. We also provide direct evidence that availability of DOM enhances survival and growth of the bryozoan Bugula neritina. That DOM offsets latent effects in B. neritina suggests that the underlying mechanisms are at least in part energetic.



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