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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 153:77-89 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/meps153077

Behavioral components of feeding selectivity of the heterotrophic dinoflagellate Protoperidinium pellucidum

Buskey EJ

Protoperidinium pellucidum is a pallium feeding heterotrophic dinoflagellate that captures phytoplankton cells individually and digests them externally. In laboratory cultures, P. pellucidum feeds on a variety of diatom species and a limited number of dinoflagellate species, and grows more rapidly on diatoms than dinoflagellates. When offered food in mixed assemblages, it feeds selectively on diatoms over dinoflagellates, and selects between diatom species. Selectivity between different diatom species does not appear to be related to size, and size alone does not explain the low selectivity for dinoflagellates. Computerized motion analysis studies of swimming behavior reveal that P. pellucidum appears to use chemoreception as the major sensory mode to detect and locate food. When P. pellucidum passes near a food cell it circles around the cell several times before attaching to the food particle, apparently using chemoreception to judge the location of the cell. Detailed behavioral observations reveal that P. pellucidum sometimes loses contact with motile dinoflagellate cells before the capture occurs; such losses were not observed with diatoms. In addition, motile dinoflagellate prey often escape after initial capture, their swimming behavior causing the capture filament to break before the cell can be engulfed by the pallium of P. pellucidum; loss of a diatom after attachment was extremely rare. Feeding selectivity may be explained in part by the nature of the chemosensory signals given off by different prey types, and therefore the distance at which P. pellucidum can detect food, and in part by the lower capture success of P. pellucidum with motile prey.

Heterotrophic dinoflagellates · Selective feeding · Behavior

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