Particle size dependent feeding by the rotifer Brachionus plicatilis
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Size selective feeding by Brachionus plicatilis was investigated with algae and bacteria (0.3–3.5 µm) and mono-disperse latex beads (0.3–3.0 µm) in short term feeding experiments.
B. plicatilis demonstrated maximum clearance rate of particles with diameter ≥2µm, but particles with diameter down to 0.3 µm were also ingested. The clearance rate of bacteria was 15–55% of that obtained for optimal sized particles (≥2 µm), and was related to particle size. The relative reduction in retention of particles with diameter < 2 µm was more pronounced for latex beads than for natural food particles, suggesting other mechanisms than size to be important for the particle retention by the rotifer. This is emphasized by the fact that the clearance rates were much lower for latex beads than for natural food particles of comparable size. Efficient retention of bacteria was observed for rotifers in poor physiological condition, i.e. rotifers with low maximum clearance rate. This may reflect a strategy to optimize energy utilization by reducing locomotion costs and increasing energy intake.
The results indicate that B. plicatilis has a low to medium ability to feed on bacteria. In natural ecosystems, its importance as a bacterial grazer is of limited importance. At high population densities, such as in live feed cultures, the rotifer may, however, efficiently remove bacteria from the culture.
Key wordsBrachionus plicatilis grazing selection bacteria microbial loop
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