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Response of Daphnia feeding rate to food C:P ratio: a test for the ""stoichiometric knife edge"" mechanism

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It is well known that deficiencies in key chemical elements (such as phosphorus, P) can reduce animal growth; however, recent empirical data have shown that high levels of dietary nutrients

It is well known that deficiencies in key chemical elements (such as phosphorus, P) can reduce animal growth; however, recent empirical data have shown that high levels of dietary nutrients can also reduce animal growth. In ecological stoichiometry, this phenomenon is known as the "stoichiometric knife edge," but its underlying mechanisms are not well-known. Previous work has suggested that the crustacean zooplankter Daphnia reduces its feeding rates on phosphorus-rich food, causing low growth due to insufficient C (energy) intake. To test for this mechanism, feeding rates of Daphnia magna on algae (Scenedesmus acutus) differing in C:P ratio (P content) were determined. Overall, there was a significant difference among all treatments for feeding rate (p < 0.05) with generally higher feeding rates on P-rich algae. These data indicate that both high and low food C:P ratio do affect Daphnia feeding rate but are in contradiction with previous work that showed that P-rich food led to strong reductions in feeding rate. Additional experiments are needed to gain further insights.

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  • 2014-05

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Bottom-up and top-down controls on the microzooplankton community in the Sargasso Sea

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Microzooplankton, mainly heterotrophic unicellular eukaryotes (protists), play an important role in the cycling of nutrients and carbon in the sunlit (euphotic) zone of the world’s oceans. Few studies have investigated

Microzooplankton, mainly heterotrophic unicellular eukaryotes (protists), play an important role in the cycling of nutrients and carbon in the sunlit (euphotic) zone of the world’s oceans. Few studies have investigated the microzooplankton communities in oligotrophic (low-nutrient) oceans, such as the Sargasso Sea. In this study, I investigate the seasonal and interannual dynamics of the heterotrophic protists, particularly the nanoflagellate, dinoflagellate, and ciliate communities, at the Bermuda Atlantic Time Series site and surrounding areas in the Sargasso Sea. In addition, I test the hypotheses that the community is controlled though bottom-up and top-down processes. To evaluate the bottom-up hypothesis, that the protists are controlled by prey availability, I test whether the protist abundance co-varies with the abundance of potential prey groups. Predation experiments with zooplankton were conducted and analyzed to test top-down control on the protists. I found distinguishable trends in biomass of the different protist groups between years and seasons. Nanoflagellates and dinoflagellates had higher biomass during the summer (28 ± 5 mgC/m2 and 44 ± 21 mgC/m2) than during the winter (17 ± 8 mgC/m2 and 30 ± 11 mgC/m2). Ciliates displayed the opposite trend with a higher average biomass in the winter (15 ± 9 mgC/m2) than in summer (5 ± 2 mgC/m2). In testing my bottom-up hypothesis, I found weak but significant positive grazer/prey relationships that indicate that nanoflagellates graze on picophytoplankton in winter and on the pico-cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus in summer. I found evidence that ciliates graze on Synechococcus in winter. I found weak but significant negative correlation between dinoflagellates and Prochlorococcus in summer. The predation experiments testing the top-down hypothesis did not show a clear top-down control, yet other studies in the region carried out during our investigation period support predation of the protists by the zooplankton. Overall, my results suggest a combination of bottom-up and top-down controls on these heterotrophic protists, however, further investigation is necessary to reveal the detailed trophic dynamics of these communities.

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  • 2016