Active prey rejection in the filter-feeding appendicularian Oikopleura dioica

F. Lombard, E. Selander and T. Kiørboe

Limnol. Oceanogr., 56(4), 2011, 1504-1512 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2011.56.4.1504

ABSTRACT: We describe different modes of prey rejection in a filter-feeding appendicularian, Oikopleura dioica. Nonselective prey rejection occurs by intermittent rejection through reversal of the feeding current of all particles when the pharyngeal filter is overloaded, and by accidental loss through the spiracles of all particles that have entered the house when the pharyngeal filter occasionally breaks. In addition, selective prey rejection of individual particles may occur in the mouth by reversal of the ciliary current in the spiracle: the unwanted particle is expelled with a small amount of water. Up to four rejections of individual particles may occur per second. This active rejection is based on both the size and the chemical characteristics of the individual particle. A significantly higher rejection rate was found for toxic dinoflagelate (68%) compared to similar sized nontoxic ones (34%); exponentially growing algae were less rejected than senescent ones; and nutrient-depleted algae were more rejected than nutrient-replete cells. For nontoxic particles, prey size relative to the size of the appendicularian was the main prey selection criterion and the optimal prey size (> 80% acceptance) for O. dioica is between 0.4% and 2% of their own size, whereas the minimum and maximum particle sizes that they can ingest range from 0.04% to 20% of their own size. This prey size spectrum is much broader than that found in most other planktivorous organisms and demonstrates that appendicularians are simultaneous microphageous and macrophageous planktonic grazers.

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