Bacterivory by heterotrophic flagellates: community structure and feeding strategies
Heterotrophic flagellates (HF) are known as most important grazers of bacteria in many aquatic ecosystem. HF cannot be treated as a black box since HF generally contain a diverse community of species significantly differing in their feeding behaviour and other ecological properties. Today it seems that the dominant taxonomic groups among heterotrophic nano- and microflagellate communities within different marine, brackish and limnetic pelagic communities (heterokont taxa, dinoflagellates, choanoflagellates, kathablepharids) and benthic communities (euglenids, bodonids, thaumatomonads, apusomonads, cercomonads) are relatively similar. HF among protista incertae sedis, often neglected in ecological studies, are abundant bacterivores in all investigated habitats. Recent studies of flagellate feeding processes indicated that there are significant species-specific differences and individual variability regarding the food uptake and food selection of bacterivorous flagellates: Variability of bacterivory is discussed regarding the prevailing feeding modes, the energy budgets, the considerable importance of slight deviations in the time budgets of feeding phases, the ingestion rates and the feeding microhabitat, respectively. The significant flexibility of the grazing impact of bacterivorous flagellate communities creates a complex top-down pressure on bacteria which should have lead to the evolution of efficient predator avoidance mechanisms in bacteria and should be at least partly responsible for the diversity of present bacteria.
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