Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 73–84

The importance of morphological versus chemical defences for the bloom-forming cyanobacterium Microcystis against amoebae grazing


    • Research Group Protistology & Aquatic EcologyGhent University
  • Ineke van Gremberghe
    • Research Group Protistology & Aquatic EcologyGhent University
  • Pieter Vanormelingen
    • Research Group Protistology & Aquatic EcologyGhent University
  • Wim Vyverman
    • Research Group Protistology & Aquatic EcologyGhent University

DOI: 10.1007/s10452-011-9382-8

Cite this article as:
Van Wichelen, J., van Gremberghe, I., Vanormelingen, P. et al. Aquat Ecol (2012) 46: 73. doi:10.1007/s10452-011-9382-8


Amoebae grazing can be an important loss factor for blooms of the common cyanobacterium Microcystis. Some Microcystis strains seem to be protected against amoebae grazing, but it is unclear whether this is achieved by their colony morphology or biochemically. These factors were investigated in grazing experiments using two Microcystis-grazing amoebae (Korotnevella sp. and Vannella sp.) and two Microcystis strains with differing colony morphology (aeruginosa and viridis morphotype) and different sensitivity to amoebae grazing. Amoebae did not increase in density and failed to reduce the growth rate of cultures of the amoebae insensitive viridis strain, irrespective of whether the Microcystis strain was colonial or unicellular. This suggests that the extended mucilage matrix surrounding viridis colonies is not the main defence mechanism against amoebae grazing. At the same time, the growth rate of both unicellular and colonial cultures of the amoebae-sensitive aeruginosa strain was heavily reduced by the growing amoebae. The addition of filtered viridis-conditioned medium to aeruginosa cultures significantly decreased both amoebae growth and its effect on aeruginosa growth rates, which indicates that extracellular compounds constitutively produced by viridis are at least partially responsible for their insensitivity to amoebae grazing. These results demonstrate the potential importance of chemical interactions between lower trophic levels (protists) for Microcystis bloom dynamics.


MicrocystisAmoebaeGrazingCyanobacteriaBiochemicalsColony morphology

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011