Toxicity Overrides Morphology on Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii Grazing Resistance to the Calanoid Copepod Eudiaptomus gracilis

Luciana Machado Rangel*, Kemal A. Ger, Lúcia H.S. Silva, Maria Carolina S. Soares, Els Faassen, Miguel Lurling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Toxicity and morphology may function as defense mechanisms of bloom-forming cyanobacteria against zooplankton grazing. Yet, the relative importance of each of these factors and their plasticity remains poorly known. We tested the effects of chemical and morphological traits of the bloom-forming cyanobacterium Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii on the feeding response of the selective feeder Eudiaptomus gracilis (Calanoida, Copepoda), using a saxitoxin-producing strain (STX+) and a non-saxitoxin (STX−)-producing strain as food. From these two chemotypes, we established cultures of three different morphotypes that differed in filament length (short, medium, and long) by incubating the strains at 17, 25, and 32 °C. We hypothesized that the inhibitory effects of saxitoxins determine the avoidance of C. raciborskii, and that morphology would only become relevant in the absence of saxitoxins. Temperature affected two traits: higher temperature resulted in significantly shorter filaments in both strains and led to much higher toxin contents in the STX+ strain (1.7 μg eq STX L−1 at 17 °C, 7.9 μg eq STX L−1 at 25 °C, and 25.1 μg eq STX L−1 at 32 °C). Copepods strongly reduced the ingestion of the STX+ strain in comparison with STX− cultures, regardless of filament length. Conversely, consumption of shorter filaments was significantly higher in the STX− strain. The great plasticity of morphological and chemical traits of C. raciborskii and their resultant contrasting effects on the feeding behavior of zooplankton might explain the success of this cyanobacterium in a variety of aquatic environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)835-844
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Cyanobacteria
  • Feeding inhibition
  • Harmful algal blooms
  • Saxitoxins
  • Temperature
  • Zooplankton


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