Microflagellate Munchies

Over the past month, the SPCP has been a dinner guest for a Protoperidinium feast! These small dinoflagellates have some fascinating table manners. Rather than ingesting their prey, they eat their food extracellularly. A hungry Protoperidinium will chemically sense a near-by cell and envelop it in a sticky sheet called a pallium or feeding veil. Once the prey is captured, the Protoperidinium secretes a digestive enzyme into the sac. The predator breaks down the innards of the prey and ingests the bits. Finally, the Protoperidinium retracts the veil, leaving behind any material it could not digest. In lab studies, the whole process takes about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the prey (though one observed feeding took nearly two hours). According to a 1984 study by Gaines and Taylor, Protoperidinium can capture cells up to 10 times its’ diameter! That would be kind of like seeing a 6 foot tall man eating a 60 foot long burrito.

This image was captured by the SPCP on Friday September 16th at about 5 PM Pacific time. The Protoperidinium is the diamond shaped cell toward the bottom left. Notice the feeding veil extending to the prey cell. Check out the gallery for more images!


Green Phytoplankton Bloom

There is a nice bloom of green phytoplankton off the pier now (it started last week). The mosaic below shows the relative abundance of the green cells compared to others.



These cells are also aggregating on some of the larger marine snow globs as shown in the images from the SPC2 below. Note the small green dots covering parts of the otherwise white and brown aggregates.

Big waves at the end of the pier

The large waves and elevated levels of sand and particles in the water have been saturating with the cameras and clogging the image processing pipeline. To keep both cameras running, the SPC2 was reduced to 2 FPS down from 8. An example of just how many particles are in the water is shown below. Note the large number of very small particles in the background, the overall glow behind the mysid, and the blurry spots in front and behind the mysid.