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Mass encystment of a planktonic oligotrich ciliate


Sediment traps were deployed in a 60 m water column near the Eddystone Lighthouse on the south west coast of England for one year from March 1984. In April, the traps collected the cysts of a planktonic ciliate with a flux of almost 35 000 m-2 d-1. The cysts were attributed to a planktonic oligotrich [provisionally identified as Strombidium crassulum (Leegard) Kahl], which was common in the water at the time. Identification was achieved through the discovery of the incipient formation of the cysts in preserved water samples and by the similarity of the morphology of the cysts with that of other oligotrichid ciliates. Attempts to prove the relationship by incubation have so far failed. The production of the cysts followed the main spring bloom of diatoms and coincided with a small bloom of autotrophic oligotrichs. In the traps, the total number and percentage of cysts with contents decreased rapidly after the encystment event. However, potentially viable cysts were still recorded in the plankton eleven months later, with minimum fluxes of 200 cysts m-2 d-1. Resuspension of bottom sediments by tides and storms ensured that a large population of cysts was always present in the water column during the winter, awaiting the right conditions to stimulate excystment and the initiation of a new motile population.

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Communicated by J. M. Mauchline, Oban

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Reid, P.C. Mass encystment of a planktonic oligotrich ciliate. Mar. Biol. 95, 221–230 (1987).

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  • Water Sample
  • Water Column
  • Large Population
  • Bottom Sediment
  • West Coast