Grazer-induced chain length plasticity reduces grazing risk in a marine diatom

Johanna Bergkvist, Peter Thor, Hans Henrik Jakobsen, Sten-Åke Wängberg and Erik Selander

Limnol. Oceanogr., 57(1), 2012, 318-324 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2012.57.1.0318

ABSTRACT: We show that Skeletonema marinoi suppresses chain formation in response to copepod cues. The presence of three different copepod species (Acartia tonsa, Centropages hamatus, or Temora longicornis) significantly reduced chain length. Furthermore, chain length was significantly reduced when S. marinoi was exposed to chemical cues from caged A. tonsa without physical contact with the responding cells. The reductions in chain length significantly reduced copepod grazing; grazing rates on chains (four cells or more) were several times higher compared to that of single cells. This suggests that chain length plasticity is a means for S. marinoi to reduce copepod grazing. In contrast, chain length was not suppressed in cultures exposed to the microzooplankton grazer Gyrodinium dominans. Size-selective predation may have played a key role in the evolution of chain formation and chain length plasticity in diatoms.

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