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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 53:181-190 (2008)  -  DOI:

Ciliate community in the oligotrophic Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea

Monika Claessens1,*, Stephen A. Wickham1, Anton F. Post2, Michel Reuter3

1Department of Organismal Biology, University of Salzburg, Hellbrunner Strasse 34, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
2The Interuniversity Institute for Marine Science, Coral Beach, PO Box 469, Eilat 88103, Israel
3General Ecology and Limnology, University of Cologne, Weyertal 119, 50923 Cologne, Germany

ABSTRACT: Ciliate data were gathered along a 600 m deepwater column in central waters of the Gulf of Aqaba, Israel. Samples were taken during winter mixing, the onset of stratification in spring and during summer stratification (2003 to 2005). The phytoplankton community strongly differed in these 3 periods, from highest abundances of eukaryotic algae during mixing, followed by a Synechococcus bloom right after the onset of stratification and a Prochlorococcus-dominated community in summer. Ciliate abundance and biomass were high compared to chlorophyll standing stock, with maximal values of 3534 cells l–1 and 3554 ng C l–1, respectively. Abundances were at times 5-fold higher than those found in comparable studies on nutrient-poor pelagic systems and approached those observed in coastal waters. Ciliate carbon:chlorophyll ratios of up to 26 were astonishingly high, as compared to values of 2 to 5 normally observed. This indicates a high efficiency of the ciliates in utilizing the available food. The phytoplankton community in the Gulf is dominated by picocyanobacteria, and by repacking the algal prey into accessible particles, protozoans might be an important intermediate link in the pathway between phytoplankton and metazoan grazers. Oligotrichs and nanociliates contributed up to 98 and 88% of ciliate total abundance, respectively. Small oligotrich species appeared to be the superior competitors in this oligotrophic marine system, being able to utilize the dominant picoautotrophs efficiently.

KEY WORDS: Nanociliates · Nutrient limitation · Ocean · Oligotrichia · QPS · Strombidium · Strobilidium · Tintinnids

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Cite this article as: Claessens M, Wickham SA, Post AF, Reuter M (2008) Ciliate community in the oligotrophic Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. Aquat Microb Ecol 53:181-190.

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