Grazing of the dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans on the paralytic toxin-producing dinoflagellate Gymnodinium catenatum: Does grazing eliminate cells during a bloom?

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José J Bustillos-Guzmán
Christine J Band-Schmidt
David J López-Cortés
Francisco E Hernández-Sandoval
Erick Núñez-Vázquez
Ismael Gárate-Lizárraga


Temperature and nutrient concentrations were measured during a mixed bloom of Noctiluca scintillans and Gymnodinium catenatum in La Paz Bay, Gulf of California. Under laboratory conditions, we offered three concentrations of G. catenatum (312, 625, or 1015 cells mL–1) to 0.53 N. scintillans cells mL–1 to study predation rates. Experiments were carried out with 750 mL of culture during a fiveday period. Sea surface temperature clearly showed a transitional period from colder to warmer water during the bloom. Field and laboratory data showed that N. scintillans fed on G. catenatum. During the trial, more than 70% of N. scintillans cells contained G. catenatum cells in their vacuoles. Ingestion rates varied; the highest ranged from 30 to 40 G. catenatum cells h–1 in each N. scintillans cell. A clear relation to the concentration of the diet was not evident. Low values of 1 to 3 G. catenatum cells h–1 in each N. scintillans cell were typical at the end of the trial. Noctiluca scintillans doubled in concentration about every 48 h; however, numerous trophonts were observed leaving the cytoplasmic membrane, suggesting cell damage. These data indicate that N. scintillans ingests G. catenatum cells but the prey appears to damage predator cells in a relatively short time. 

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