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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 177:165-175 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps177165

Retention of ciliates and flagellates by the oyster Crassostrea gigas in French Atlantic coastal ponds: protists as a trophic link between bacterioplankton and benthic suspension-feeders

Christine Dupuy1,2,*, Solange Le Gall1, Hans J. Hartmann2, Martine Bréret1

1CNRS/IFREMER, CREMA BP 5, F-17137 L'Houmeau, France
2LBBM, Université de La Rochelle, Pôle Science Av. Marillac, F-17042 La Rochelle, France

ABSTRACT: In French Atlantic coastal ponds of the Charente, oysters can grow under conditions where phytoplankton production is limited by nutrient exhaustion. Such ponds typically show a high concentration of ciliates and flagellates during the growing season (1 x 104 to 3 x 105 cells l-1 in June 1997). In order to evaluate the importance of the 'protozoan trophic link' for energy transfer from the 'microbial food web' to large benthic suspension feeders, we offered a coastal pond community of ciliates and flagellates as potential prey to the oyster Crassostrea gigas. Clearance rate, filtered particles and relative retention efficiency were evaluated. In the grazing experiment, 94% of ciliates and 86% of flagellates (size between 4 and 72 µm), were retained by the oyster. Whatever their size, protists were similarly retained by the oyster gills. In terms of carbon, oysters retain on average 126 µg C h-1 g-1 dry weight, a value over 4 times higher than reported for phytoplankton. These results indicate that a field community of protists can contribute in coastal oyster rearing ponds to the energy requirements of the oyster C. gigas. We report here the first experimental evidence of a significant retention of a protist community by oysters, supporting the role of protists as a trophic link between picoplankton and benthic filter-feeding bivalves.

KEY WORDS: Bivalve · Oyster · Food source · Coastal pond · Microbial food web · Protist · Picoplankton · Trophic link

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