, Volume 96, Issue 3, pp 354–359 | Cite as

Behavioural and morphological changes in ciliates induced by the predator Amoeba proteus

  • Jürgen Kusch
Original Papers


The predator Amoeba proteus induced behavioural and morphological changes in ciliates of the genus Euplotes. The frequency of avoidance behaviour in E. octocarinatus increased from 16±5% to 84±5% (SD) after 14 h of coexistence with the predator. The ciliate's width increased from 59±3 μm to 77±4 μm (SDM) within 48 h. Similar behavioural, but not morphological, change was induced in E. daidaleos, but neither morphological nor behavioural responses occurred in E. aediculatus. E. octocarinatus and E. daidaleos populations survived in the presence of A. proteus, whereas E. aediculatus populations became extinct by predation. Induced behavioural response seemed to be the reason for the low predation risk of E. octocarinatus and E. daidaleos. The results suggest that Euplotes ciliates have evolved specific defence mechanisms to various predators. Defensive changes are induced by a chemical substance released from A. proteus. This “kairomone” has a molecular weight between 5000 and 10000 Da. Proteolytic digestion of its activity indicated that the avoidance-inducing substance is a peptide. After the turbellarian Stenostomum sphagnetorum had induced a defensive morphology in E. octocarinatus or E. aediculatus, neither of these ciliates immediately avoided Amoeba proteus. Thus, Euplotes ciliates with a defensive morphology do not have behavioural defences in reaction to all predators.

Key words

Avoidance behaviour Defensive morphology Phenotypic plasticity Predation Protozoa 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jürgen Kusch
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Allgemeine Zoologie und Genetik der Universität MünsterMünsterGermany

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