On the abundance and distribution of protozoa and their food in a productive freshwater pond

B J Finlay, K J Clarke, A J Cowling, R M Hindle, A Rogerson, U G Berninger
European Journal of Protistology 1988, 23 (3): 205-17
We have examined and quantified the protozoa living in a productive freshwater pond during a 2-day period in June 1987. Over 90 species were recognised. The planktonic and benthic communities were dominated by ciliates and heterotrophic flagellates although the large amoeba Pelomyxa palustris was abundant (102 ml(-1)) in anaerobic sediments. Picoplankton averaged 1.4 × 10(7) ml(-1), phototrophic nanoplankton 0.8 × 10(5) ml(-1), heterotrophic nanoplankton 0.9 × 10(5) ml(-1) and planktonic ciliates 1.3 × 10(2) ml(-1). Numbers were about two orders of magnitude higher in the sediment. Protozoan biomass ranged from 3% to 61% of the total plankton biomass. Heterotrophic flagellates were the principal grazers of the picoplankton. Planktonic ciliates fed mainly on phototrophic nanoplankton but they probably also ingested heterotrophic flagellates. Benthic ciliates were predominantly bactivorous. Competition between ciliate species was minimised by both spatial and food niche separation. Ten species of planktonic ciliates appeared to contain algal symbionts: one species (Strombidium viride) contained structures resembling sequestered chloroplasts. These findings concerning the diversity and abundance of protozoa in a freshwater pond are consistent with the consensus opinion expressed in the marine literature that protozoa play a fundamental role in microbial food webs within aquatic ecosystems.

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