Marine microalgae attack and feed on metazoans

Terje Berge, Louise K. Poulsen, Morten Moldrup, Niels Daugbjerg, Per Juel Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Free-living microalgae from the dinoflagellate genus Karlodinium are known to formmassive blooms in eutrophic coastal waters worldwide and are often associated with fish kills. Natural bloom populations, recently shown to consist of the two mixotrophic and toxic species Karlodinium armiger and Karlodinium veneficum have caused fast paralysis and mortality of finfish and copepods in the
laboratory, and have been associated with reduced metazooplankton biomass in-situ. Here we show that a strain of K. armiger (K-0688) immobilises the common marine copepod Acartia tonsa in a densitydependent manner and collectively ingests the grazer to promote its own growth rate. In contrast, four strains of K. veneficum did not attack or affect the motility and survival of the copepods. Copepod immobilisation by the K. armiger strain was fast (within 15min) and caused by attacks of swarming cells, likely through the transfer and action of a highly potent but uncharacterised neurotoxin. The copepods grazed and reproduced on a diet of K. armiger at densities below 1000 cells ml1, but above 3500 cells ml1 the mixotrophic dinoflagellates immobilised, fed on and killed the copepods. Switching the trophic role of the microalgae from prey to predator of copepods couples population growth to reduced grazing pressure, promoting the persistence of blooms at high densities. K. armiger also fed on three other
metazoan organisms offered, suggesting that active predation by mixotrophic dinoflagellates may be directly involved in causing mortalities at several trophic levels in the marine food web
Original languageEnglish
JournalI S M E Journal
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1926-1936
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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