Omnivory and predation impact of the calanoid copepod Boeckella poppei in a maritime Antarctic lake

The copepod Boeckella poppei is a major species in high latitude lakes of the Southern Hemisphere. In such lakes the reduced diversity of metazoans contrasts with a rich microbial assemblage, making these systems amenable to the study of predation controls on the microbial food web. However, the diet of B. poppei is subject to conflicting reports, with little information on feeding rates. We incubated this species in water from Sombre Lake, a much-studied maritime Antarctic Lake on the South Orkney Islands, in order to quantify its feeding rates and potential impact on the microbial assemblage. Overall, clearance rates were similar across 4 experiments spanning November 1999–March 2000, but increased with prey size over the range of 2.7–18 μm equivalent spherical diameter (esd). B. poppei fed omnivorously, although small phototrophic flagellates comprised the bulk of the diet because of their overwhelming dominance in the incubation water. Larger motile preys—heterotrophic ciliates of ~18 μm esd—were cleared fastest (mean 555 ml mg−1 dry mass day−1) and at equivalent rates to those found for freshwater and marine copepods of similar size and at similar temperatures. Estimated predation impact on the microbial food web varied with the abundance of copepods; these were ~30-fold greater in March than in December. In March even the relatively abundant B. poppei (1.7 adults l−1) had a negligible impact on nanoflagellates, due to the low clearance rate on these small cells. However, in March, B. poppei adults were estimated to clear 24% of the lake water of ciliates daily. Given the generation time of ciliates (1.6 days measured in a previous summer study), and the fact that other larval stages of B. poppei were not assessed, this species has the potential to control this part of the microbial assemblage in Sombre Lake.


Publication status:
Authors: Butler, Helen, Atkinson, Angus, Gordon, Marina

1 January, 2005
Polar Biology / 28
Link to published article: