, Volume 831, Issue 1, pp 5–21 | Cite as

Grazing impact and prey selectivity of picoplanktonic cells by mixotrophic flagellates in oligotrophic lakes

  • Marina Gerea
  • Claudia Queimaliños
  • Fernando UnreinEmail author


Mixotrophy by planktonic algae can dominate picoplankton predation in oligotrophic environments. We compared the grazing activity and prey preference of different mixotrophic taxa from natural communities of two oligotrophic shallow lakes (Escondido and Morenito) by performing eight laboratory grazing experiments using three different fluorescent prey (bacteria, picocyanobacteria, and picoeukaryotic algae). Eight taxa of mixotrophic flagellates (MF) corresponding to five different Classes, and two size categories of heterotrophic flagellates were distinguished. Chesson index showed that the ten identified protists preferred picocyanobacteria than bacteria, while picoeukaryotic algae were not ingested by any flagellate. In both lakes, MFs were responsible for ca. 80% of the picoplankton ingestion due to flagellates, and more than 50% of the total grazing impact when considering all flagellates, ciliates, and rotifers. Pseudopedinella spp. (Dictyochophyceae), Chrysochromulina parva (Haptophyceae), and Dinobryon divergens (Chrysophyceae) were the most important predators, while Plagioselmis lacustris (Cryptophyceae) and Chrysophyceae > 5 µm showed the lowest grazing rates. Overall, our findings support the idea of MF being the main picoplankton predators in oligotrophic systems. Besides, we also conclude that herbivory represents a key process in the mixotrophic carbon cycling in oligotrophic environments.


Grazing rate Mixotrophy Bacterivory Herbivory Picocyanobacteria Bacteria 



We are grateful to Dr. Miguel Battini for his help in the sampling events and especially to Dr. Carolina Soto Cárdenas for her help with nutrient determinations. We thank Dr. Cristian D. Torres for his assistance in statistical analyses. We also thank the San Carlos de Bariloche Town Council for granting permission to sample lakes within its jurisdiction. We thank Dr. Sylvia Bonilla and Dr. Angela Juárez who kindly provided the strains to prepare the FLPs. This work was supported by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CSIC-CONICET) (Spain-Argentina) Project PROBA (2007 AR0018, CSIC), the Spanish Project MIXANTAR (REN 2002-11396-E/ANT), and by the Argentinean projects CONICET-PIP 01301, FONCYT-PICT 32732, and UNComahue 04/B166. Marina Gerea, Claudia Queimaliños and Fernando Unrein are CONICET researchers.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grupo de Ecología de Sistemas Acuáticos a escala de Paisaje (GESAP), INIBIOMACONICET-Universidad Nacional del ComahueBarilocheArgentina
  2. 2.Laboratorio de Ecología y Fotobiología Acuática, IIB-INTECHUNSAM-CONICETChascomúsArgentina
  3. 3.Consejo Nacional de Investigación Científica y Técnica (CONICET)Buenos AiresArgentina

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