Impacts of inorganic nutrients on the physiology of a mixoplanktonic ciliate and its cryptophyte prey

Maira Maselli*, Dedmer B. Van de Waal, Per Juel Hansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
40 Downloads (Pure)


Many marine planktonic ciliates retain functional chloroplasts from their photosynthetic prey and use them to incorporate inorganic carbon via photosynthesis. While this strategy provides the ciliates with carbon, little is known about their ability to incorporate major dissolved inorganic nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Here, we studied how ciliates respond to different concentrations of dissolved inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus. Specifically, we tested the direct and indirect effects of nutrient availability on the ciliate Strombidium cf. basimorphum fed the cryptophyte prey Teleaulax amphioxeia. We assessed responses in the rates of growth, ingestion, photosynthesis, inorganic nutrient uptake, and excretion. Our results show that the prey changed its carbon content depending on the nutrient concentrations. Low inorganic nutrient concentrations increased S. cf. basimorphum growth and prey ingestion. The higher carbon content of the prey under these low nutrient conditions likely supported the growth of the ciliate, while the higher carbon:nutrient stoichiometry of the prey led to the higher ingestion rates. The low carbon content of the prey at high nutrient concentrations resulted in reduced growth of S. cf. basimorphum, which indicates that carbon acquired via photosynthesis in the ciliate cannot compensate for the ingestion of prey with low carbon content. In conclusion, our findings show S. cf. basimorphum is not able to utilize dissolved inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus for growth, and this species seems to be well adapted to exploit its prey when grown at low nutrient conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Ciliates
  • Cryptophytes
  • Inorganic nutrients
  • Mixotrophy
  • Plankton
  • Prey quality
  • Protist

Research theme

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