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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 200:127-139 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps200127

Dilution effects on microzooplankton in dilution grazing experiments

J. R. Dolan1,2,*, C. L. Gallegos1, A. Moigis1,**

1Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, PO Box 28, Edgewater, Maryland 21037, USA
2Marine Microbial Ecology Group, CNRS ESA 7076, Université Paris VI, Station Zoologique, BP 28, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
*E-mail: **Present address: Ulmenstrasse 73, 24306 Ploen, Germany

ABSTRACT: In dilution experiments, filtered seawater is used to create a gradient of grazing pressure on phytoplankton. Microzooplankton grazing is estimated by examining phytoplankton growth within the gradient. However, the dilution series also represents a resource gradient for microzooplankton. Here we report the effects of dilution on grazers. In 2 standard dilution experiments, using communities from the eutrophic (chlorophyll a = 12 to 15 µg l-1) Rhode River Estuary, we examined the effects of dilution on different groups of microzooplankters: rotifers, tintinnid ciliates, oligotrich ciliates, predacious ciliates, and Mesodinium rubrum. Apparent growth rates of tintinnids and oligotrichs varied with prey concentration, decreasing with the dilution factor from about +0.5 d-1 in undiluted whole water to about -1 d-1 in the 5% whole water, closely resembling numerical response curves. Among tintinnids, there was an increase in the relative abundance of larger tintinnids in the time 24 h samples of dilute treatments compared to the less dilute treatments. No consistent dilution effect was shown by rotifers or predacious ciliates. The growth rates of the photosynthetic ciliate M. rubrum increased with dilution, resembling the typical pattern of chlorophyll a and autotrophic nanoplankton. Grazer growth in undiluted waters and grazer mortality in dilute water may be common and result in uncertainty in measured grazing rates. We urge that grazers be examined in grazing experiments not only to assess possible artifacts in grazing rate estimates, but also to provide information, beyond a simple grazing rate, on the grazer populations.

KEY WORDS: Ciliate · Oligotrich · Tintinnid · Phytoplankton · Nanoplankton · Rotifer · Flagellate

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