Marine Biology

, Volume 116, Issue 3, pp 477-487

First online:

Grazing of the mixotrophic dinoflagellate Gymnodinium sanguineum on ciliate populations of Chesapeake Bay

  • K. R. BockstahlerAffiliated withSmithsonian Environmental Research Center
  • , D. W. CoatsAffiliated withSmithsonian Environmental Research Center

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In situ grazing rates for the mixotrophic dinoflagellate Gymnodinium sanguineum Hirasaka feeding on nanociliate populations of Chesapeake Bay were determined in June and October of 1990 using a “gut clearance/gut fullness” approach. Recently ingested prey were digested beyond the point of recognition at a rate of ∼23% h-1. Estimates of in situ ingestion and clearance ranged from 0 to 0.06 prey dinoflagellate-1 h-1 and 0 to 5.8 μl dinoflagellate-1 h-1, respectively, with daily removal of ciliate biomass representing 6 to 67% of the ≤20-μm oligotrich standing stock. Daily consumption of ciliate biomass by G. sanguineum averaged 2.5% of body carbon and 4.0% of body nitrogen with maximal values of 11.6 and 18.5%, respectively. Ingestion of ciliates may help balance nitrogen requirements for G. sanguineum and give this species an advantage over purely photosynthetic dinoflagellates in nitrogen limited environments. By preying on ciliates, these dinoflagellates reverse the normal flow of material from primary producer to consumer and thereby influence trophodynamics of the microbial food web in Chesapeake Bay.