In aquatic settings, animals directly affect ecosystem functions through excretion of dissolved nutrients. However, the comparative role of egestion as an animal-mediated nutrient flux remains understudied. We conducted a literature survey and meta-analysis to directly compare nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and N:P of egestion compared to excretion rates and ratios across freshwater animals. Synthesizing 215 datasets across 47 animal species (all primary consumers or omnivores), we show that the total N and P egestion rates exceed inorganic N and P excretion rates but not total N and P excretion rates, and that proportions of P egested compared to excreted depend on body size and animal phylum. We further show that variance of egestion rates is often greater than excretion rates, reflecting greater inter-individual and temporal variation of egestion as a nutrient flux in comparison to excretion. At phylogenetic levels, our analysis suggests that Mollusca exhibit the greatest rates and variance of P egestion relative to excretion, especially compared to Arthropoda. Given quantitative evidence of egestion as a dominant and dynamic animal-mediated nutrient flux, our synthesis demonstrates the need for additional studies of rates, stoichiometry, and roles of animal egestion in aquatic settings.
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