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Journal of Plankton Research








The photosynthetic ciliate Mesodinium rubrum is a common member of coastal phytoplankton communities that is well adapted to low-light, turbid ecosystems. It supports the growth of, or competes with, harmful dinoflagellate species for cryptophyte prey, as well as being a trophic link to copepods and larval fish. We have compiled data from various sources (n = 1063), on the abundance and distribution of M. rubrum in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Because M. rubrum relies on obtaining organelles from cryptophyte algae to maintain rapid growth, we also enumerated cryptophyte algae in the portion of these samples that we collected (n =386). Mesodinium rubrum occurred in oligohaline to polyhaline regions of Chesapeake Bay and throughout the year. Blooms (>100 cells mL-1) primarily occurred during spring, followed by autumn. When compared across all seasons, M. rubrum abundance was positively correlated to temperature and cryptophytes, and negatively correlated with salinity. However, more focused analyses revealed that M. rubrum abundance during spring was associated with surface layer warming and decreased salinity, while early autumn assemblages were associated with surface cooling. These results imply that there are distinct seasonal niches for M. rubrum blooms. Blooms were more common in tributaries than in the main stem Bay and tended to be restricted to salinities under 10 PSU. Despite the rarity of red water events, M. rubrum is a ubiquitous mixotroph in Chesapeake Bay and at times likely exerts a strong influence on cryptophyte algal abundance and hence planktonic food web structure.


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Original Publication Citation

Johnson, M. D., Stoecker, D. K., & Marshall, H. G. (2013). Seasonal dynamics of Mesodinium rubrum in Chesapeake Bay. Journal of Plankton Research, 35(4), 877-893. doi:10.1093/plankt/fbt028


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