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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME - Vol. 46, No. 1 - Feature article
Predators used in grazing experiments, shown to scale. Top: Euphausia superba, furcilia; lower left: Metridia gerlachei; lower right: Oithona similis. Photo: Stephen Wickham

Wickham SA, Berninger UG


Krill larvae, copepods and the microbial food web: interactions during the Antarctic fall


Experiments conducted in the Bellinghausen Sea (Antarctica) during the austral autumn evaluated the interactive effects of krill larvae (furcilia) and copepods on the microbial food web. Although krill and their larvae are primarily considered to be herbivores, the experiments showed that furcilia have much higher grazing rates on copepods and ciliates than on algae. Despite the large predation impact of furcilia on ciliates, the trophic levels beneath ciliates did not respond to the addition of furcilia, suggesting that top-down control of the Antarctic microbial food web does not play a major role during the austral autumn. The experiments also demonstrate that predation on heterotrophic food organisms is a plausible explanation for the survival of furcilia over the Antarctic winter.


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