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Microb Ecol. 2001 Aug;42(2):168-176.

The Influence of Preculture Conditions and Food Quality on the Ingestion and Digestion Process of Three Species of Heterotrophic Nanoflagellates.

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Department of General Ecology and Limnology, Zoological Institute, University of Cologne, D-50923 Cologne, Germany.


The influence of prey characteristics such as motility and size as well as of predator characteristics such as satiation and preculturing diet on the feeding process of interception feeding heterotrophic nanoflagellates was investigated. Three species of gram-negative bacteria, one species of gram-positive bacteria, two species of cyanobacteria (Synechococcus) and inert latex particles were fed as prey particles for three species of heterotrophic nanoflagellates (Spumella, Ochromonas, Cafeteria). Ingestion rates depended on the satiation of the flagellates and especially on the filling status of the food vacuoles. In addition, the ingestion rates depended on the characteristics of the food particle and were modified by pre-culturing the flagellates on either Pseudomonas putida or Bacillus subtilis. Digestion was found to be particle-specific. Cyanobacteria were excreted a few minutes after ingestion whereas heterotrophic bacteria were stored and digested in the food vacuoles. The spectrum of ingested particles is not identical to that of digested particles and thus neither the diet of the flagellates nor their impact on bacterial communities can be calculated simply from food vacuole content. "Selective digestion" could be shown to be an important selection mechanism concerning natural food particles. The digestion strategies of Cafeteria on the one hand and Spumella and Ochromonas on the other hand may be an important factor to explain protozoan species composition and succession in the field. In addition to bacterial abundance and grazing pressure by metazooplankton, the bacterial speciescomposition as well as biochemical variations within bacterial species may influence protozoan species composition and abundance.


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