, Volume 69, Issue 3, pp 334-340

The role of taste in food selection by freshwater zooplankton

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Summary

Laboratory experiments with flavored and untreated polystyrene spheres revealed major differences in taste discrimination among diverse taxa of freshwater zooplankton. Copepods showed the strongest responses to flavor treatments. Both nauplii and copepodites of calanoid (Diaptomus) and cyclopoid (Cyclops) copepods selected flavored spheres over untreated ones. Moreover, a small cyclopoid, Tropocyclops, actively fed on an alga (Chlamydomonas) but did not ingest untreated spheres of the same size. Taste tests with cladocerans verified an overall tendency to ingest inert particles but also demonstrated important differences between families. Daphnids (4 species), Chydorus (Chydoridae) and Diaphanosoma (Sididae) did not respond to flavor treatments, while 2 species of bosminids selectively ingested flavored spheres. Daphnia also fed nonselectively in mixtures of algae and untreated spheres while Bosmina preferred algae over untreated spheres. Different species of rotifers exhibited 3 distinct responses to the flavor treatments: 1) Brachionus fed nonselectively, 2) Filinia fed preferentially on flavored 6 μm spheres, and 3) Polyarthra, Keratella, Synchaeta, and Noltholca infrequently ingested any spheres.

Recent advances in our understanding of the feeding mechanisms of zooplankton help to explain why some taxa feed selectively on flavored particles while others do not. The ability of certain taxa to use taste to discriminate between high and low quality food particles has important implications for competition between zooplankton species and for interactions between planktonic grazers and their food resources.