Marine Biology

, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 207–210 | Cite as

Dinoflagellate luminescence increases susceptibility of zooplankton to teleost predation

  • A. F. Mesinger
  • J. F. Case


The “burglar alarm” theory of bioluminescence was investigated by determining predation rates of a nocturnal teleost predator,Porichthys notatus, on nonluminescent kelp mysids illuminated by dinoflagellate flashes, between the fall and spring of 1989/1990. Mysids (Holmesimysis costata) were placed in aquaria containing varying concentrations (0 to 40 cells/ml) of the dinoflagellatePyrocystis fusiformis and a single midshipman fish. Controls usedP. fusiformis during their luminescence-inhibited day phase. Mysid swimming movements readily stimulated dinoflagellate luminescence. Flashes and prey strikes were observed simultaneously by image-intensifying and infrared video cameras on a splitscreen monitor. Predation rates increased at dinoflagellate concentrations of 3 to 15 cells/ml and decreased below controls at levels>20 cells/ml. Videotape analysis showed that at low concentrations (2 to 5 cells/ml), strike success rates exceeded 75% if prey were previously illuminated by a flash, but dropped below 50% at higher cell densities. Increased predation was attributed to luminescence revealing prey position. The decrease at higher concentrations was considered to be due to greater flash frequency providing a more diffuse and confusing target. The study demonstrates the effects of secondary luminescence on zooplankton predation at normally encountered dinoflagellate concentrations.


Cell Density Video Camera Dinoflagellate High Cell Density Predation Rate 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. F. Mesinger
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. F. Case
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of California at Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of California at Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA

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