In a previous study, Teleaulax amphioxeia—the preferred prey of Mesodinium in the Columbia River estuary—were undetectable within intense annual blooms, suggesting blooms are prey-limited or prey are acquired outside of bloom patches. We used a novel molecular approach specifically targeting the prey (i.e., Unique Sequence Element [USE] within the ribosomal RNA 28S D2 regions of T. amphioxeia nucleus and nucleomorph) in estuarine water samples acquired autonomously with an Environmental Sample Processor integrated within a monitoring network (ESP-SATURN). This new approach allowed for both more specific detection of the prey and better constraint of sample variability. A positive correlation was observed between abundances of M. cf. major and T. amphioxeia during bloom periods. The correlation was stronger at depth (> 8.2 m) and weak or nonexistent in the surface, suggesting that predator–prey dynamics become uncoupled when stratification is strong. We confirmed exclusive selectivity for T. amphioxeia by M. cf. major and observed the incorporation of the prey nucleus into a 4-nuclei complex, where it remained functionally active. The specific biomarker for T. amphioxeia was also recovered in M. cf. major samples from a Namibian coastal bloom, suggesting that a specific predator–prey relationship might be widespread between M. cf. major and T. amphioxeia.
- Environmental Sample Processor
- Unique Sequence Element
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