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.
- Feeding inhibition
- Harmful algal blooms