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Grazers and vitamins shape chain formation in a bloom-forming dinoflagellate, Cochlodinium polykrikoides

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Predators influence the phenotype of prey through both natural selection and induction. We investigated the effects of grazers and nutrients on chain formation in a dinoflagellate, Cochlodinium polykrikoides, which forms dense blooms and has deleterious effects on marine ecosystems around the world. Field populations of C. polykrikoides formed longer chains than laboratory cultures without grazers. In the field, chain length of C. polykrikoides was positively correlated with the abundance of the copepod Acartia tonsa. Chain length of C. polykrikoides increased when exposed to live females of A. tonsa or its fresh (<24 h post-isolation) exudates for 48 h. These results suggest that dissolved chemical cues released by A. tonsa induce chain formation in C. polykrikoides. Ingestion rate of A. tonsa on four-cell chains of C. polykrikoides was lower than on single cells, suggesting that chain formation may be an effective anti-grazing defense. Finally, nutrient amendment experiments demonstrated that vitamins (B1, B7, and B12) increased the chain length of C. polykrikoides both singly and collectively, while trace metals and inorganic nutrients did not, showing that vitamins may also influence chain formation in this species.

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We thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. The research was supported by grants from the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council, Suffolk County’s Department of Health Services, and a New York Sea Grant. This is contribution number 1,395 of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Stony Brook University.

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Correspondence to Xiaodong Jiang.

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An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-010-1744-8

Communicated by Ulrich Sommer.

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Jiang, X., Lonsdale, D.J. & Gobler, C.J. Grazers and vitamins shape chain formation in a bloom-forming dinoflagellate, Cochlodinium polykrikoides . Oecologia 164, 455–464 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-010-1695-0

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  • Chain formation
  • Dinoflagellate
  • Grazer
  • Vitamin