Lethal parasitism of large phytoplankton by chytrids (microscopic zoosporic fungi) may play an important role in organic matter and nutrient cycling in aquatic environments by shunting carbon away from hosts and into much smaller zoospores, which are more readily consumed by zooplankton. This pathway provides a mechanism to more efficiently retain carbon within food webs and reduce export losses. However, challenges in accurate identification and quantification of chytrids have prevented a robust assessment of the relative importance of parasitism for carbon and energy flows within aquatic systems. The use of molecular techniques has greatly advanced our ability to detect small, nondescript microorganisms in aquatic environments in recent years, including chytrids. We used quantitative PCR (qPCR) to quantify the consumption of zoospores by Daphnia in laboratory experiments using a culture-based comparative threshold cycle (CT) method. We successfully quantified the reduction of zoospores in water samples during Daphnia grazing and confirmed the presence of chytrid DNA inside the daphnid gut. We demonstrate that comparative CT qPCR is a robust and effective method to quantify zoospores and evaluate zoospore grazing by zooplankton and will aid in better understanding how chytrids contribute to organic matter cycling and trophic energy transfer within food webs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
- Food Science