MEPS 214:67-78 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps214067

Escape response of planktonic protists to fluid mechanical signals

Hans Henrik Jakobsen*

Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Department of Marine and Coastal Ecology. Kavalergården 6, 2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark Marine Biological Laboratory, Strandpromenaden 5, 3000 Helsingør, Denmark

ABSTRACT: The escape response to fluid mechanical signals was examined in 6 protists, 4 ciliates and 2 dinoflagellates. When exposed to a siphon flow, 3 species of ciliates, Balanion comatum, Strobilidium sp., and Mesodinium pulex, responded with escape jumps. The threshold deformation rates required to elicit an escape ranged between 1.8 and 3 s-1. Escape speeds varied between 100 to 150 body length s-1. Jump directions were non-random in all jumping species and had a negative geotactic component. In a grazing experiment with copepods, the predation mortality of a jumping ciliate was about 15 times lower than that of a non-jumping similar sized protist when the predator was Temora longicornis, which captures prey entrained in a feeding current. However, when the predator was the ambush-feeding copepod Acartia tonsa, the predation mortalities of jumping and non-jumping protists were of similar magnitude. Escape responses may thus be advantageous in some situations. However, jumping behaviour may also enhance susceptibility to some predators, explaining the different predator avoidance strategies (jumping or not) that have evolved in planktonic protists.

KEY WORDS: Escape behaviour · Ciliates · Dinoflagellates · Jumping · Strobilidium · Balanion · Mesodinium · Acartia tonsa · Temora longicornis

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