[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Since ciliates rarely possess structures that easily fossilize, we are limited in our ability to use paleontological studies to reconstruct the early evolution of this large and ecologically important clade of protists. Tintinnids, a group of loricate (house-forming) planktonic ciliates, are the only group that has a significant fossil record. Putative tintinnid fossils from rocks older than Jurassic, however, possess few to no characters that can be found in extant ciliates; these fossils are best described as ‘incertae sedis eukaryotes’. Here, we review the Devonian fossil Nassacysta reticulata and propose that it is likewise another incertae sedis eukaryote due to the lack of any unambiguous ciliate characters. Future tintinnid fossil descriptions would be most helpful if: (i) neutral terminology is used in the descriptions but ciliate-specific terminology in the interpretations; (ii) the current ciliate classification is used, although fossil data may expand or modify classifications based on modern forms; (iii) close collaboration with specialists studying extant ciliates is done; and (iv) editors include an expert of extant ciliates in the review process.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Application of deep sequencing technologies to environmental samples and some detailed morphological studies suggest that there is a vast, yet unexplored rare ciliate biosphere, tentatively defined in terms of operational taxonomic units. However, very few studies complemented molecular and phylogenetic data with morphological and ecological descriptions of the species inventory. This is mainly because the sampling effort increases strongly with decreasing species abundance. In spite of this limited knowledge, it is clear that species that are rare under certain environmental conditions (temporal rare biosphere) may become abundant when the physical, chemical and biological variables of their habitat change. Furthermore, some species may always be present in low numbers if their dispersal rates are exceedingly high (accidental rare biosphere). An intriguing question is whether there are some species that are always rare, i.e. in every suitable environment. This permanent rare biosphere is conceptually different from the temporal rare biosphere. This review characterizes typical aquatic habitats of the rare ciliate biosphere, portrays different scenarios under which some or even many species may be permanently rare (background fauna), and identifies some fundamental questions that need to be addressed to achieve a better understanding of the population dynamics of the rare ciliate biosphere. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated the ecology and life strategy of Glaucomides bromelicola (family Bromeliophryidae), a very common ciliate in the reservoirs (tanks) of bromeliads, assessing its response to food quality and quantity and pH. Further, we conducted competition experiments with the frequently coexisting species Bromeliothrix metopoides (family Colpodidae). In contrast to B. metopoides and many other colpodean ciliates, G. bromelicola does not form resting cysts, which jeopardizes this ciliate when its small aquatic habitats dry out. Both species form bactivorous microstomes and flagellate-feeding macrostomes. However, only G. bromelicola has a low feeding threshold and is able to adapt to different protist food. The higher affinity to the local bacterial and flagellate food renders it the superior competitor relative to B. metopoides. Continuous encystment and excystment of the latter may enable stable coexistence of both species in their natural habitat. Both are tolerant to a wide range of pH (4-9). These ciliates appear to be limited to tank bromeliads because they either lack resting cysts and vectors for long distance dispersal (G. bromelicola) and/or have highly specific food requirements (primarily B. metopoides).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The planktonic food web in extremely acidic mining lakes is restricted to a few species that are either acidophilic or acidotolerant. Common metazoans inhabiting acidic mining lakes with a pH below 3 include rotifers in the genera Cephalodella and Elosa.
The life history response of Cephalodella acidophila to three environmental key factors, pH (2, 3.5, 5.0 and 7.0), temperature (10, 17.5 and 25 °C) and food concentration (10 000, 35 000 and 50 000 algal cells per mL), was investigated in a full factorial design using life-table experiments.
The effect of each of the three environmental variables investigated on the rotifer life cycle parameters (life span, fecundity and population growth rate) differed. C. acidophila is a stenoecious species with a pH optimum in the range 3–4 and a comparably high food threshold. Combining the laboratory results with field data, we conclude that C. acidophila is severely growth limited in its natural habitat. However, low pH alone is not harmful as long as temperatures are moderate to warm and food is abundant.
The population of C. acidophila in the field is maintained mainly due to release from competitors and predators.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated the recently described colpodid ciliate Bromeliothrix metopoides in a series of laboratory experiments to reveal the environmental factors that constrain this species to its peculiar habitat, i.e. the tanks of bromeliads. Our results demonstrated that the various life stages of this ciliate (bacterivorous theronts and microstome trophonts, flagellate-feeding macrostomes) have specific demands in terms of food quality and quantity. Bromeliothrix required a high food threshold (>1.4mgCL(-1)) in order to thrive. Food quality also affected resting cyst formation of B. metopoides when the experimental containers dried out. Its maximum growth rates (μmax=4.71d(-1), i.e. 6.8doublingsd(-1)) belong to the highest ones recorded thus far for free-living ciliates. The pH niche of B. metopoides was relatively wide (pH ∼4 to >9) under optimal food conditions. However, its high sensitivity to unfavourable environmental conditions let the population collapse within several hours. We conclude that B. metopoides is a boom and bust ciliate that is specifically adapted to its peculiar habitat but virtually unviable in other environments.
European Journal of Protistology 03/2013; 49(3). DOI:10.1016/j.ejop.2013.02.001 · 2.34 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated the morphology, phylogeny of the 18S rDNA, and pH response of Oxytricha acidotolerans sp. nov. and Urosomoida sp. (Ciliophora, Hypotricha) isolated from two chemically similar acid mining lakes (pH∼2.6) located at Langau, Austria, and in Lusatia, Germany. Oxytricha acidotolerans sp. nov. from Langau has 18 frontal-ventral-transverse cirri but a very indistinct kinety 3 fragmentation so that the assignment to Oxytricha is uncertain. The somewhat smaller species from Lusatia has a highly variable cirral pattern and the dorsal kineties arranged in the Urosomoida pattern and is, therefore, preliminary designated as Urosomoida sp. The pH response was measured as ciliate growth rates in laboratory experiments at pH ranging from 2.5 to 7.0. Our hypothesis was that the shape of the pH reaction norm would not differ between these closely related (3% difference in their SSU rDNA) species. Results revealed a broad pH niche for O. acidotolerans, with growth rates peaking at moderately acidic conditions (pH 5.2). Cyst formation was positively and linearly related to pH. Urosomoida sp. was more sensitive to pH and did not survive at circumneutral pH. Accordingly, we reject our hypothesis that similar habitats would harbour ciliate species with virtually identical pH reaction norm.
European Journal of Protistology 09/2012; 49(2). DOI:10.1016/j.ejop.2012.08.001 · 2.34 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated the morphology, phylogeny, and pH response of two undescribed Oxytricha species isolated from two acid mining lakes (pH ~2.6) located in Lusatia (Germany) and Langau (Austria). The Langau species, tentatively named Oxytricha acidotolerans by Weisse et al. (2011, Ecosphere), is about 60-80 × 25-40 µm in life, has an ordinary 18-cirri pattern, about 24 adoral membranelles, 3 µm long dorsal bristles, three caudal cirri, two macronuclear nodules, two micronuclei, and six dorsal kineties. The species from Lusatia is highly variable in the main characters (body size, shape, infraciliature, nuclear apparatus) making a useable description almost impossible. Both species differ by 3% in their SSU rDNA and occur in a cluster containing, inter alia, other oxytrichids like Onychodromopsis flexilis, Cyrtohymena citrina, and Paraurostyla weissei. However, Oxytricha granulifera, the type species of Oxytricha, is distinctly separated, demonstrating the immature taxonomy of this group. Our ecological hypothesis was that the shape of the pH reaction norm would not differ between our closely related species. Ciliate growth rates measured in the laboratory were calculated from changes in cell numbers vs. time. Results revealed a broad pH niche for O. acidotolerans, with positive growth rates over the entire pH range investigated, peaking at moderately acidic conditions (pH 5.2). Cyst formation was positively and linearly related to pH. Oxytricha sp. from Lusatia was more sensitive to pH and did not survive at circum-neutral pH. Our experimental results characterize O. acidotolerans as an acidotolerant species, while Oxytricha sp. is acidophilic. We reject our hypothesis that similar habitats would harbour ciliate species with virtually identical pH reaction norm. Supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) Projects P20118-B17 (TW) and P23415-B17 (HB).
31th Annual Meeting of the German Society of Protozoology, Wuppertal; 03/2012
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This study investigated two mining lakes located in the north of Lower Austria. These lakes arose 45 years ago when open cast lignite mining ceased. The lakes are separated by a 7-m wide dam. Due to the oxidation of pyrite, both lakes have been acidified and exhibit iron, sulphate, and heavy metal concentrations several orders of magnitude higher than in circumneutral lakes. The water column of both lakes is divided into two layers by a pronounced chemocline. The smaller mining lake (AML), with pH close to of 2.6, is the most acidic lake in Austria, whereas flooding with stream water and by drainage from the surrounding fields neutralized the adjacent larger pit lake. The goal of our study was to investigate the effect of flooding on its physical, chemical and biological properties, in comparison to the pristine AML. Even relative to other extremely acidic lakes, the flora and fauna in the AML was reduced and composed of only two flagellate, one ciliate, and one rotifer species. The simplified pelagic food web in the mixolimnion consisted of heterotrophic bacteria, the mixotrophic flagellates Chlamydomonas acidophila and Ochromonas sp., the ciliate Oxytricha sp., and the rotifer Cephalodella sp. The latter two are as yet undescribed new species. The heliozoan Actinophrys sp. that may act as top predator occurred only in low abundance. The euglenid Lepocinclis buetschlii formed a stable deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM) at 7 m depth. Highest cell numbers of L. buetschlii in the DCM exceeded 10(8) L(-1). The neutralized mining lake harboured higher plankton diversity similar to that of natural circumneutral lakes. A peak of at least 16 different phytoplankton taxa was observed during summer. The zooplankton consisted of several copepod species, daphnids and other cladocerans, and at least six different rotifer species. Several fish species occurred in the neutralized lake. Although the effect of non-permanent flooding was largely sustainable, interannual fluctuations of the pH affected the plankton community and reduced its species diversity.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It is currently controversially discussed if the same freshwater microorganisms occur worldwide wherever their required habitats are realized, i.e., without any adaptation to local conditions below the species level. We performed laboratory experiments with flagellates and ciliates from three acidic mining lakes (AML, pH similar to 2.7) to investigate if similar habitats may affect similar organisms differently. Such man-made lakes provide suitable ecosystem models to test for the significance of strong habitat selection. To this end, we analyzed the growth response of three protist taxa (three strains of the phytoflagellate Chlamydomonas acidophila, two isolates of the phytoflagellate Ochromonas and two species of the ciliate genus Oxytricha) by exposing them to lake water of their origin and from the two other AML in a cross-factorial design. Population growth rates were measured as a proxy for their fitness. Results revealed significant effects of strain, lake (= habitat), and strain X habitat interaction. In the environmentally most adverse AML, all three protist taxa were locally adapted. In conclusion, our study demonstrates that (1) the same habitat may affect strains of the same species differently and that (2) similar habitats may harbor ecophysiologically different strains or species. These results contradict the 'everything is everywhere' paradigm.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Strains of the green alga Chlamydomonas acidophila and two chrysomonads, Ochromonas spp., isolated from each of two similar acid mining lakes (AMLs) with extremely low pH (∼2.6) were investigated to consider a possible synergistic stress effect of low pH and unfavourable temperature. We measured flagellate growth rates over a combination of four pH (2.5, 3.5, 5.0 and 7.0) and three temperatures (10, 17.5 and 25°C) in the laboratory. Our hypothesis was that, under highly acidic conditions (pH <3), an obligate acidophil species (C. acidophila) would be less sensitive to the combined stress of pH and temperature than acidotolerant species (Ochromonas spp.). We expected that the difference of the fundamental vs. realized pH niche would be greater in the latter. Another chrysomonad, Poterioochromonas malhamensis strain DS, served as a reference for a closely related neutrophil species. Surprisingly, C. acidophila did not survive temperatures >27°C. The lowest temperature tested reduced growth rates of all three chrysomonad strains significantly. Since all chrysomonads were tolerant to high temperature, growth rate of one Ochromonas spp. strain was measured exemplarily at 35°C. Only at this high temperature was the realized pH niche significantly narrowed. We also recorded significant intraspecific differences within the C. acidophila strains from the two AML, illustrating that the niche width of a species is broader than that of individual clones.
Journal of Plankton Research 07/2011; 33(7):1023-1032. DOI:10.1093/plankt/fbr014 · 2.26 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We measured bacterial abundance, biomass, production rates, and grazing losses to protozoans in three oligotrophic British Columbia lakes and analyzed bacteria abundance and lake productivity data from 11 other lakes, most fertilized with inorganic nutrients to increase their productivity for juvenile salmon. Bacteria contributed about 24% to the phytoplankton-bacteria carbon biomass in the most ultraoligotrophic lakes, and their relative contribution declined to < 11% with increasing lake productivity. At increasingly high nutrient loadings to the lakes, bacteria abundance increased and was closely correlated with phytoplankton biomass and productivity. Heterotrophic nanoflagellate (HNF) abundance was positively correlated with bacterial numbers. Grazing experiments revealed that HNF were the primary pathway for moving bacterial production to higher trophic levels in oligotrophic British Columbia lakes, and predation by the ciliate and rotifer microzooplankton community appeared to exert top-down control over the abundance of HNF and the transfer of carbon from bacteria. The HNF and microzooplankton, in turn, were affected by the abundance of crustacean mesozooplankton, principally copepods in our experiments.
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 04/2011; 57(1). DOI:10.1139/cjfas-57-1-96 · 2.28 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated the effect of pH on the competition of two closely related chrysomonad species, Poterioochromonas malhamensis originating from circumneutral Lake Constance, and Ochromonas sp. isolated from a highly acidic mining lake in Austria (pH ∼2.6). We performed pairwise growth experiments between these two species at four different pH ranging from 2.5 to 7.0. Heterotrophic bacteria served as food for both flagellates. Results were compared to growth rates measured earlier in single species experiments over the same pH range. We tested the hypothesis that the acidotolerant species benefits from competitive release under conditions of acid stress. The neutrophilic strain numerically dominated over the acidotolerant strain at pH 7.0, but was the inferior competitor at pH 2.5. At pH 3.5 and 5.0 both strains coexisted. Surprisingly, P. malhamensis prevailed over Ochromonas sp. under moderately acidic conditions, i.e. at the pH where growth rates of the latter peaked when grown alone. Since bacterial food was not limiting, resource competition is improbable. It appears more likely that P. malhamensis ingested cells of its slightly smaller competitor. Adverse effects mediated via allelopathy, either directly on the competing flagellate or indirectly by affecting its bacterial food, might also have affected the outcome of competition.
European Journal of Protistology 02/2011; 47(2):79-85. DOI:10.1016/j.ejop.2011.01.001 · 2.34 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We describe a new species of Cephalodella, C. acidophila n. sp., isolated from the plankton of two extremely acidic mining lakes (pH <3) in Austria and Germany. The species is morphologically closely related to Cephalodella delicata Wulfert. It shares with the latter an almost identical trophi morphology and anatomical organization, but differs clearly by form and length of its toes, larger body size, and ecology. Laboratory experiments revealed that the species is acidophilic, i.e. it thrives at low pH (<4) and does not survive at circumneutral conditions. The species occurs in its man-made habitats at low to moderate abundance (usually 5–22 individuals l-1) and in stock cultures thrives on the green alga Chlamydomonas acidophila. The easily cultured species has previously been used in various experimental studies, but has only now been recognized to represent an undescribed species.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Acidic mining lakes (pH <3) are specific habitats exhibiting particular chemical and biological characteristics. The species richness is low and mixotrophy and omnivory are common features of the plankton food web in such lakes. The plankton community structure of mining lakes of different morphometry and mixing type but similar chemical characteristics (Lake 130, Germany and Lake Langau, Austria) was investigated. The focus was laid on the species composition, the trophic relationship between the phago-mixotrophic flagellate Ochromonas sp. and bacteria and the formation of a deep chlorophyll maximum along a vertical pH-gradient. The shallow wind-exposed Lake 130 exhibited a higher species richness than Lake Langau. This increase in species richness was made up mainly by mero-planktic species, suggesting a strong benthic/littoral - pelagic coupling. Based on the field data from both lakes, a nonlinear, negative relation between bacteria and Ochromonas biomass was found, suggesting that at an Ochromonas biomass below 50 μg C L(-1), the grazing pressure on bacteria is low and with increasing Ochromonas biomass bacteria decline. Furthermore, in Lake Langau, a prominent deep chlorophyll maximum was found with chlorophyll concentrations ca. 50 times higher than in the epilimnion which was build up by the euglenophyte Lepocinclis sp. We conclude that lake morphometry, and specific abiotic characteristics such as mixing behaviour influence the community structure in these mining lakes.
Limnologica - Ecology and Management of Inland Waters 05/2010; 40(2):161-166. DOI:10.1016/j.limno.2009.11.002 · 1.66 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated the effect of different light conditions on primary production and growth rates of three closely related freshwater picocyanobacterial strains from three different ribotypes in laboratory cultures. The primary goal was to test whether not only different pigment types (PC-rich versus PE-rich) but also other physiological characteristics suggested by different phylogenetic positions could affect growth and photosynthetic rates of picocyanobacteria. Secondly, we tested whether photacclimation is strain specific. Experiments were conducted over light intensities ranging from 6 to 1500 mumol photons m(-2) s(-1) with cultures that were acclimated to low (10 mumol photons m(-2) s(-1)) and moderate (100 mumol photons m(-2) s(-1)) irradiance. The PE-rich strain was sensitive to high light conditions and reached highest photosynthesis and growth rates at low light intensities. The relative effect of photoacclimation was different between the two PC-rich strains, with one strain showing only moderate changes in growth rates in response to the light level used during the acclimation period. Overall, growth rates differed widely in response to light intensity and photoacclimation. Photoacclimation significantly affected both primary production and growth rates of all three strains investigated. We conclude that strain-specific photoacclimation adds to the niche partitioning among closely related freshwater picocyanobacteria.
Journal of Plankton Research 05/2009; 31(4):349-357. DOI:10.1093/plankt/fbn123 · 2.26 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Small freshwater bodies are abundant and economically and ecologically important on a global scale. Within these, protozoa play an important role in structuring planktonic food webs and sequestering CO2. We hypothesized that short-term (∼20 days) fluctuations, of 2–10 °C, will significantly alter carbon flux associated with predator–prey interactions within the microbial planktonic food web. We examined the model ciliate, Urotricha farcta, which is abundant and common; it was fed the autotrophic flagellate Cryptomonas sp., which is also common. Laboratory experiments were conducted over relevant ranges: 8–24 °C; 0–2 × 105 prey mL−1. Mechanistic-phenomenological multiple regressions were developed and fit to the data to obtain relationships for (1) growth rate and volume changes of the flagellate vs. temperature and (2) growth rates, grazing, and cell volume change of the ciliate vs. temperature and prey concentration. Responses revealed interaction between temperature and prey levels on all ciliate parameters, indicating it is inappropriate to apply simple temperature corrections (e.g. Q10) to such functions. The potential impact of such temperature changes on carbon flux was illustrated using a simple ciliate–flagellate predator–prey model, with and without the top grazer, Daphnia, added. The model indicated that predator–prey pulses occurred over 20 days, with the ciliate controlling the prey population. For ciliates and prey, carbon production peaked at 20 °C and rapidly decreased above and below this maximum; differences between minimum and maximum were approximately fourfold, for both prey and ciliate, with low levels at 25–30 °C and 10–15 °C. Including literature data to parameterize, the influence of the grazer Daphnia did not alter the prediction that the ciliate may control short-term flagellate pulses and temperature will influence these in a nonintuitive fashion.