Experimental evidence for crustacean zooplankton grazing activity on mixotrophic ciliates
- With their ultraoligotrophic status, the Chilean North Patagonian lakes have mixotrophic ciliates in their pelagic environments as producers, whereas the primary consumers are crustaceans that are low in abundance and species numbers. The aim of the present study was to determine the potential grazer role of mixotrophic ciliates on crustacean zooplankton collected in a lake without mixotrophic ciliates. Three experiments were conducted; one had a control with mixotrophic ciliates and an experimental treatment including the copepod Boeckella gracilipes obtained from Caburgua lake, whereas the second and third experiments had a control without zooplankton, and three treatments with the addition of Daphnia pulex and Mesocyclops araucanus, and a third treatment with equal amounts of both species. The results revealed grazing effects on the mixotrophic ciliates in the experimental treatments. This finding supports the evidence from the field and experiments suggesting that, in the transition from oligotrophy to mesotrophy with consequent changes in zooplankton, species number and abundance of mixotrophic ciliates decrease in their abundance.