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PeerJ. 2019 Aug 19;7:e7549. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7549. eCollection 2019.

Trophic upgrading and mobilization of wax esters in microzooplankton.

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Science and Technology, Bryant University, Smithfield, RI, USA.
Chemistry, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, USA.
Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI, USA.
Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.


Heterotrophic protists play pivotal roles in aquatic ecosystems by transferring matter and energy, including lipids, from primary producers to higher trophic predators. Using Oxyrrhis marina as a model organism, changes to the non-saponifiable protist lipids were investigated under satiation and starvation conditions. During active feeding on the alga Cryptomonas sp., the O. marina hexane soluble non-saponifiable fraction lipid profile reflected its food source with the observed presence of long chain mono-unsaturated fatty alcohols up to C25:1. Evidence of trophic upgrading in O. marina was observed with long chain mono-unsaturated fatty alcohol accumulation of up to C35:1. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first evidence that heterotrophic dinoflagellates are capable of producing ester derived alcohols and that dinoflagellates like O. marina are capable of synthesizing fatty alcohols up to C35. Additionally, we show evidence of trophic upgrading of lipids. During a 20-day resource deprivation, the lipid profile remained constant. During starvation, the mobilization of wax esters as energy stores was observed with long chain fatty alcohols mobilized first. Changes in lipid class profile and utilization of wax esters in O. marina provides insight into the types of lipids available for energy demand, the transfer of lipids through the base of marine food webs, and the catabolic response induced by resource deprivation.


Catabolism; Microzooplankton; Oxyrrhis marina; Resource deprivation; Trophic upgrading; Wax ester

Conflict of interest statement

Susanne Menden-Deuer is an Academic Editor for PeerJ.

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