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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 63:299-309 (2011)  -  DOI:

Response of biofilm-dwelling ciliate communities to enrichment with algae

Denise Früh1,2, Helge Norf1,3,4,*, Markus Weitere1,3

1University of Cologne, Cologne Biocenter, Zoological Institute, Zülpicher Str. 47b, 50674 Cologne, Germany
2Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Department of Limnology and Conservation, Clamecystrasse 12, 63571 Gelnhausen, Germany
3Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Department of River Ecology, and 4Department of Aquatic Ecosystem Analysis, Brückstr. 3a, 39114 Magdeburg, Germany
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: The role of benthic versus planktonic algae in shaping semi-natural ciliate biofilms was studied using miniature flow cells fed by a permanent flow of natural field water from the River Rhine, Germany. Increased food availability for the ciliates was achieved either by supplementation with planktonic algae or by artificial illumination (to stimulate benthic algal growth). Manipulation of both resources significantly increased the total abundance of ciliates and caused significant shifts in the structure of the ciliate community. Supplementation with planktonic algae particularly stimulated suspension-feeding Peritrichia, whereas Choreotrichia were reduced, probably due to indirect effects such as competition or interference. Increased density of benthic algae especially stimulated surface-feeding groups (e.g. Stichotrichia, Nassophorea), causing the establishment of seasonally atypical structures in the ciliate community, as has been observed in late fall. Ciliates generally responded faster to increased resources during the summer, as compared with winter, suggesting that temperature, as well as the availability of resources, has an important role in shaping ciliate biofilms. Our results are among the first that demonstrate the different contributions of planktonic and benthic algae in shaping ciliate biofilms. Furthermore, they accentuate the need for studies with a higher ­taxonomic resolution when addressing the responses of microbial biofilms to the increased avail­ability of food.

KEY WORDS: River biofilm ∙ Benthic ciliates ∙ Bottom-up ∙ Grazing ∙ Periphyton

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Cite this article as: Früh D, Norf H, Weitere M (2011) Response of biofilm-dwelling ciliate communities to enrichment with algae. Aquat Microb Ecol 63:299-309.

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