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Control mechanisms of photosynthetic epibionts on zooplankton: an experimental approach

  • Rodríguez, Marco A.
  • Lacroix, Gérard
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2015
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Several top-down and bottom-up forces have been put forward to explain variable infestation rates of zooplankton by epibionts. Among top-down forces, fish predation affects epibiont prevalence on zooplanktonic organisms, either by eliminating more conspicuous, heavily burdened individuals, or by reducing population size of zooplankton hosts, with consequences for substrate availability for epibionts. However, detailed experimental-based information on the effects of top-down forces is still lacking. Among bottom-up forces, light can potentially control populations of photosynthetic epibionts. Therefore, both changes in light penetration in the water column and the vertical position of hosts in the water column could affect the photic conditions in which epibionts live and could thus control their population growth. We tested experimentally the hypothesis that both light limitation and fish predation affect epibiont burden on zooplankton. Moreover, we also tested the hypothesis that zooplanktivorous fish affect the prevalence and burden of the epibiotic alga Colacium sp. (Euglenida) on zooplankton not only by direct predation, but also by affecting the vertical distribution of zooplankton. We analyzed Colacium burden on two zooplankton genera that responded differently to the presence of zooplanktivorous fish by altering their daytime vertical distributions, thus exposing photosynthetic epibionts to different light conditions. Colacium burden on the two zooplankton genera was also compared between enclosures with different degrees of light limitation. Our results suggest that (1) ambient light limitation has the potential to reduce the burden of photosynthetic epibionts on zooplankton in natural conditions, and (2) zooplankton behavior (e.g., daytime refuge use to escape fish predation) can reduce the burden by exposing photosynthetic epibionts to suboptimal light conditions.

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