, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 315-325
Date: 06 Apr 2006

Feeding Characteristics of an Amoeba (Lobosea: Naegleria) Grazing Upon Cyanobacteria: Food Selection, Ingestion and Digestion Progress

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Bacterivory by heterotrophic nanoflagellates and ciliates has been widely studied in aquatic environments, but data on the grazing of amoebae, are still scarce. From the water samples of Dianchi Lake (Kunming, Yunnan Province, China), we isolated an amoeba, designated as Naegleria sp. strain W2, which had potent grazing effects on some kind of cyanobacteria. The food selection mechanism and the digestion process of the amoeba were investigated in batch experiments. Predation experiments showed that filamentous cyanobacteria (e.g., Anabaena, Cylindrospermum, Gloeotrichia, and Phormidium) were readily consumed, with clearance rates ranging from 0.332 to 0.513 nL amoeba−1 h−1. The tight threads (Oscilltoria) and aggregates (Aphanizomenon) could not be ingested; however, their sonicated fragments were observed inside food vacuoles, suggesting that their morphologies prevent them from being ingested. Live video microscopy noted that unicellular Chroococcaceae (e.g., Synechococcus, Aphanocapsa, and Microcystis) were excreted after ingestion, indicating that food selection takes place inside food vacuoles. To determine whether the tastes or the toxins prevented them from being digested, heat-killed cells were retested for predation. Digestion rates and ingestion rates of the amoebae for filamentous cyanobacteria were estimated from food vacuole content volume. Through a “cold-chase” method, we found that the food vacuole contents declined exponentially in diluted amoebae cells, and digestion rates were relatively constant, averaging about 1.5% food vacuole content min−1 at 28°C. Ingestion strongly depended on the satiation status of the amoebae, starved amoebae fed at higher rates compared with satiated amoebae. Our results suggest that the food selection and food processing mechanisms of the amoeba are similar to those of interception feeding flagellates; however, filamentous cyanobacteria cannot obtain a refuge under the grazing pressure of phagotrophic amoebae, which may widen our knowledge on the grazing of protists.