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A cryptic marine ciliate feeds on progametes of Noctiluca scintillans

TitleA cryptic marine ciliate feeds on progametes of Noctiluca scintillans
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsZhang S.W, Chan K.YK, Shen Z., Cheung S.Y, Landry MR, Liu H.B
Date Published2017/02
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1434-4610
Accession NumberWOS:000395479800001
Keywordschemosensory behavior; feeding behavior; food-web; growth; heterotrophic dinoflagellate; long-term; Noctiluca; north-sea; population-dynamics; prey; progametes; red tide phenomena; sexual reproduction; Strombidium sp; swimming pattern

The dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans (Noctiluca) has the ability to reproduce sexually, which may help to increase or restore its population size during periods of blooms or environmental stress. Here, we documented for the first time a marine ciliate Strombidium sp. that feeds on Noctiluca's progametes undergoing stages 5 to 9 of nuclear division. This ciliate frequently swam on or around gametogenic and some vegetative Noctiluca cells. The ciliates associated with gametogenic cells had significantly lower swimming speed and changed direction more frequently than those associated with vegetative cells, which overall increased their time spent around the food patches (progametes). This trophic interaction constitutes an upside-down predator -prey link, in which ciliates within the typical size range of Noctiluca prey, become the predators. Based on the phylogenetic tree (maximum-likelihood), there are 14 environmental clones similar to Strombidium sp. found in other coastal waters, where Noctiluca presence or blooms have been reported. This novel predator-prey relationship could therefore be common in other Noctiluca habitats. Additional studies are needed to assess the magnitude of its impacts on Noctiluca population dynamics and plankton bloom succession. (C)2016 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

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