, Volume 451, Issue 1–3, pp 295–304 | Cite as

Protistan epibionts of the ctenophore Mnemiopsis mccradyi Mayer

  • Anthony G. Moss
  • Anne M. Estes
  • Lisa A. Muellner
  • Darrell D. Morgan


Mnemiopsis mccradyi, a common coastal ctenophore, was observed to bear two distinct, exclusive assemblages of protistan epibionts. The mobiline peritrich, Trichodina ctenophorii (Estes et al., 1997), and small Flabellula-like gymnamoebae inhabited only the surface of the comb plates. By contrast, small Vexillifera-like gymnamoebae and large Protoodinium-like dinoflagellates were found on the ectoderm. The relationship of the epimicrobial protists with their host varied from possible mutualism (vexilliferids) to commensalism (trichodinids) to parasitism (flabellulids and protoodinids). Trichodinids may benefit from comb plate attachment by enhanced food capture. Although they did not obviously impair comb plate beating, they did distort the surface and appear to produce fissures in the comb plate surface, which could provide inroads for more severe comb plate damage by amoebae. By contrast, when flabellulid amoebae occurred in very high surface densities (up to ∼5000 mm−2), they clearly damaged comb plates by eroding the surface. Where flabellulid pseudopodia invaded the comb plate, we observed local degradation of comb plate cilia, as evidenced by central pair disorientation and plasma membrane perturbation and overt phagocytosis of comb plate cilia. Ectodermal vexilliferids, which occurred at much lower densities, did not appear to have any degradative impact on the ctenophore. By contrast, clusters of ectodermal protoodinids were found in localized depressions most likely caused by invasive phagocytosis. The impact of the protistan assemblages on ctenophore populations is unclear, but under conditions of severe infestation they might depress ctenophore population density.

comb jellies comb plate marine parasites amoebae ciliates dinoflagellates coastal health 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony G. Moss
    • 1
  • Anne M. Estes
    • 2
  • Lisa A. Muellner
    • 2
  • Darrell D. Morgan
    • 2
  1. 1.Biological SciencesAuburn UniversityAuburnU.S.A.
  2. 2.Biological SciencesAuburn UniversityAuburnU.S.A.

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