The ecology of Paraphysomonas imperforata based on studies employing oligonucleotide probe identification in coastal water samples and enrichment cultures

Lim, Ee Lin, Mark R. Dennett, David A. Caron

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(1), 1999, 37-51 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.1.0037

ABSTRACT: The geographical distribution and seasonal abundance of the cosmopolitan heterotrophic flagellate Paraphysomonas imperforata in several coastal waters was examined using species-specific oligonucleotide hybridization probes which target small subunit ribosomal RNA. P. imperforata was found to occur in several coastal environments, but at very low abundances (typically <50 cells ml-1). The seasonal abundance of P. imperforata examined at one sampling site remained consistently low and constituted no more than 1% of the total nanoplankton at any time during a 17-month sampling period. In contrast to the low abundances observed in natural water samples, P. imperforata frequently dominated heterotrophic enrichment cultures prepared from these same samples, comprising up to 98% of the total nanoplankton. Based on these findings, we conclude that P. imperforata is an opportunistic species capable of growing rapidly to high abundances when prey concentrations are high. Water and enrichment temperature as well as the temperature tolerance range of P. imperforata appear to have played a role in the seasonal differences observed in P. imperforata dominance. Experiments with enrichment cultures indicated that the absolute abundances of P. imperforata in the water samples and the activity of consumers of nanoplankton also influenced the degree to which P. imperforata dominated the heterotrophic nanoplankton assemblages of enrichment cultures. Seasonal changes in water temperature might also affect these latter factors, and, as a consequence, indirectly influence the ability of P. imperforata populations to dominate enrichments. Our results support the notion that enrichment cultivation of heterotrophic flagellates, and perhaps incubations in general, can select for species such as P. imperforata that may not be representative of nanoplanktonic protists that numerically dominate natural assemblages.

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