Selective feeding behaviour of key free-living protists: avenues for continued study
Phagotrophic protists are diverse and abundant in aquatic and terrestrial environments, making them fundamental to the transfer of matter/energy within their respective food webs. Recognising their grazing impact is essential to evaluate the role of protists in ecosystems, and this includes appreciating prey selectivity. Efforts have been made by groups and individuals to understand selective grazing behaviour by protists: many approaches and perspectives have been pursued, not all of which are compatible. This article, which is not a review, is the product of our discourse on this subject at the SAME 10 meeting. It is the work of individuals, assembled for their breadth of backgrounds, approaches, views, and expertise. Firstly, to communicate ideas and approaches, we develop a framework for selective feeding processes and suggest 6 steps: searching, contact, capture, processing, ingestion, digestion. We then separate study approaches into 2 categories: (1) those examining whole organisms at the community, population, and individual levels, and (2) those examining physiology and molecular attributes. Finally, we explore general problems associated with the field of protistan selective feeding (e.g. linking food selection into food webs and modeling). We do not present all views on any one topic, nor do we cover all topics; instead, we offer opinions and suggest avenues for continued study. Overall, this paper should stimulate further discourse on the subject and provide a roadmap for the future.
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