Studies of predator-prey systems in both aquatic and terrestrial environments have shown that grazers structure the intraspecific diversity of prey species, given that the prey populations are phenotypically variable. Populations of phytoplankton have traditionally considered comprising only low intraspecific variation, hence selective grazing as a potentially structuring factor of both genetic and phenotypic diversity has not been comprehensively studied. In this study, we compared strain specific growth rates, production of polyunsaturated aldehydes, and chain length of the marine diatom Skeletonema marinoi in both grazer and non-grazer conditions by conducting monoclonal experiments. Additionally, a mesocosm experiment was performed with multiclonal experimental S. marinoi populations exposed to grazers at different levels of copepod concentration to test effects of grazer presence on diatom diversity in close to natural conditions. Our results show that distinct genotypes of a geographically restricted population exhibit variable phenotypic traits relevant to grazing interactions such as chain length and growth rates. Grazer presence affected clonal richness and evenness of multiclonal Skeletonema populations in the mesocosms, likely in conjunction with intrinsic interactions among the diatom strains. Only the production of polyunsaturated aldehydes was not affected by grazer presence. Our findings suggest that grazing can be an important factor structuring diatom population diversity in the sea and emphasize the importance of considering clonal differences when characterizing species and their role in nature.
|Number of pages||13|
|Publication status||Published - 2014|
|MoE publication type||A1 Journal article-refereed|