Attack of the Killer Algae

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Science  18 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6083, pp. 780
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6083.780-b

In the oceans, free-living dinoflagellates are one of the most diverse groups of simple eukaryotes: Some are photosynthetic, some are grazers and predators, some are both, and some become temporarily photosynthetic simply by virtue of the cells they eat. This relaxed approach to nutrition is common in the harmful algal bloom species found in coastal waters. But Berge et al. have found that dinoflagellate species, which possess permanent chloroplasts and were normally thought to rely on photosynthesis, could attach to and suck out nutriment from crustacean copepod larvae. More usually it is the copepods that are the predators on algae, and their grazing reduces algal biomass and regulates bloom formation, but in this case the dinoflagellate Karlodinium armiger displays pronounced swarming behavior and forms feeding aggregates that allow the ingestion of prey much larger than itself.


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