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The Protozooplankton-Ichthyoplankton Trophic Link: An Overlooked Aspect of Aquatic Food Webs
- MONTAGNES, DAVID J.S., DOWER, JOHN F., FIGUEIREDO, GISELA M.
- Journal of eukaryotic microbiology 2010 v.57 no.3 pp. 223-228
- Protozoa, aquaculture, aquatic food webs, bacteria, energy transfer, fish larvae, fisheries, food chain, food quality, ichthyoplankton, methodology, scientists, technology, trade
- Since the introduction of the microbial loop concept, awareness of the role played by protozooplankton in marine food webs has grown. By consuming bacteria, and then being consumed by metazooplankton, protozoa form a trophic link that channels dissolved organic material into the "classic" marine food chain. Beyond enhancing energy transfer to higher trophic levels, protozoa play a key role in improving the food quality of metazooplankton. Here, we consider a third role played by protozoa, but one that has received comparatively little attention: that as prey items for ichthyoplankton. For >100 years it has been known that fish larvae consume protozoa. Despite this, fisheries scientists and biological oceanographers still largely ignore protozoa when assessing the foodweb dynamics that regulate the growth and survival of larval fish. We review evidence supporting the importance of the protozooplankton-ichthyoplankton link, including examples from the amateur aquarium trade, the commercial aquaculture industry, and contemporary studies of larval fish. We then consider why this potentially important link continues to receive very little attention. We conclude by offering suggestions for quantifying the importance of the protozooplankton-ichthyoplankton trophic link, using both existing methods and new technologies.