Testing for toxic effects of prey on zooplankton using sole versus mixed diets

Colin, Sean P., Hans G. Dam

Limnol. Oceanogr., 47(5), 2002, 1430-1437 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2002.47.5.1430

ABSTRACT: Negative effects of prey species on consumers could be due to deterrence, nutritional insufficiency, or toxicity of the prey. These effects can be discerned in experiments in which the suspect prey is offered to the consumers in a food mixture containing another prey item that is not toxic and in which the ingestion rates on the prey and the grazers’ responses (e.g., egg production) are measured. We used this framework to determine whether several algae that have been reported to have harmful effects on grazers (Prorocentrum minimum, low- and high-toxin Alexandrium sp., Heterosigma carterae, Thalassiosira rotula, and Phaeodactylum tricornutum) are toxic to females of the calanoid copepod Acartia tonsa. Ingestion, egg production, and egg-hatching rates were measured for A. tonsa offered sole diets of the suspect alga and mixed diets containing the suspect alga and a control alga (the green flagellate Tetraselmis sp.) at an ecologically relevant concentration (250 µg C L-1) and duration (3 d). With the exception of the Alexandrium strain with the high-toxin content (16.3 pgSaxitoxin [pgSTX] equivalents cell21), none of the diets studied can be considered toxic. The high-toxin Alexandrium reduced A. tonsa’s total ingestion rate, and thus egg production, as the proportion of Alexandrium increased in the diet. A. tonsa exhibited significantly reduced ingestion and egg production rates when feeding on sole food diets of H. carterae and P. tricornutum relative to the mixed food diets. However, a comparison of ingestion rates among the diet mixtures revealed that H. carterae and P. tricornutum acted as feeding deterrents when provided as sole foods. These results stress the importance of using mixed food diets when examining putative toxic effects of preys on consumers.

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