Nutritional status and diet composition affect the value of diatoms as copepod prey.
The role of diatoms as key food for copepods at the base of pelagic food chains has been questioned recently on the grounds of toxicity. We show, using unialgal versus mixed algal diets of different nutritional status (i.e., nitrogen:carbon ratio) fed to Acartia tonsa, that diatoms per se are not toxic but that single-diatom diets are inadequate. Additionally, the nutritional state of the phytoplankton has a profound effect on copepod growth and growth efficiency. The ecological significance of laboratory demonstrations of diatom toxicity needs to be reconsidered.
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