MEPS 255:115-125 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps255115

Allelopathic effect of Prymnesium parvum on a natural plankton community

Giovana O. Fistarol*, Catherine Legrand, Edna Granéli

Department of Biology and Environmental Science, University of Kalmar, Barlastgatan 1, 391 82 Kalmar, Sweden

ABSTRACT: The allelopathic effect of Prymnesium parvum (Prymnesiophyta), which produces toxins with haemolytic, ichthyotoxic and cytotoxic properties, was investigated on a natural plankton community. Under controlled conditions, 3 laboratory bioassays were performed by adding cell-free filtrate from a P. parvum culture into different size fractions (<150, <100 and 20 to 150 µm) of a natural Baltic Sea plankton community. The effect of P. parvum cell-free filtrate was determined by measuring chlorophyll a, cell numbers (phytoplankton, ciliates, bacteria), carbon (14C) uptake by phytoplankton and the incorporation of 3H-leucine by bacteria. P. parvum cell-free filtrate affected the whole phytoplankton community, resulting in a decrease in both chlorophyll a and carbon uptake. Furthermore, the plankton groups present in the community exhibited different sensitivity to the cell-free filtrate. While growth of cyanobacteria and dinoflagellates was inhibited, that of diatoms and ciliates was not only completely suppressed, but no cells were present at the end of the experiment in the bottles with P. parvum filtrate. In all experiments, therefore, cyanobacteria and dinoflagellates were the most resistant groups, which led to their dominance in the treatments with filtrate compared to controls. Bacterial production was also negatively affected by P. parvum filtrate. The results show that compounds released by P. parvum induce changes in the plankton community structure, killing other members of the marine food-web, especially other phytoplankton (allelopathy), and suggest that secreted compounds of P. parvum are inhibitory to potential grazers (ciliates). It is proposed that allelopathy is an important process in the ecology of P. parvum.

KEY WORDS: Prymnesium parvum · Allelopathy · Natural plankton community · Phytoplankton · Ciliates · Bacteria

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