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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 274:199-208 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/meps274199

Role of essential lipids in copepod nutrition: no evidence for trophic upgrading of food quality by a marine ciliate

W. C. M. Klein Breteler1,*, M. Koski1,2, S. Rampen1

1Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), PO Box 59, 1790 AB, Den Burg, The Netherlands
2Present address: Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Kavalergården 6, 2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark

ABSTRACT: The ciliate Strombidium sulcatum was used to feed and grow young stages of the copepods Temora longicornis (Müller) and Pseudocalanus elongatus (Boeck). The ciliate was cultured in the laboratory using either bacteria or the green alga Dunaliella sp. as a food source. Young copepodites of both copepod species consumed S. sulcatum at significant rates, but after 3 d, weight-specific ingestion decreased more than 2-fold. Larvae and copepodites feeding on S. sulcatum developed at suboptimal rates, survived poorly and showed abnormal morphology in comparison to control individuals fed a good-quality Rhodomonas sp. diet. The specific mass of fatty acids in S. sulcatum was much lower than in the Dunaliella sp. diet. However, the fatty acid composition of the protozoan more or less resembled that of the food, lacking long-chain highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs). Sterols only occurred in Dunaliella sp., although in low abundance of unuseful Δ7 sterols. Obviously, S. sulcatum did not biochemically enhance bacterial or algal food for subsequent use at higher trophic levels, and only transferred fatty acids without further conversion. The results indicate a deficiency in the ciliate of HUFAs and sterols which are essential nutrients for copepod growth. Apart from energy, ciliates seem to contribute little nutritive value to the diet of higher trophic levels, and this may limit secondary production during periods of low algal abundance.

KEY WORDS: Copepods · Ciliates · Grazing · Food quality · Fatty acids · Sterols

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