Rauen T. V., Mukhanov V. S., Aganesova L. O. Ingestion of microplastics by the heterotrophic dinoflagellate Oxyrrhis marina. Marine Biological Journal, 2023, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 64-75. https://doi.org/10.21072/mbj.2023.08.1.06



Incorporation of microplastics (MP) into the microbial food web and its further transport to higher trophic levels have been hitherto poorly studied. In this work, the patterns of MP ingestion by the unicellular heterotrophic dinoflagellate Oxyrrhis marina (OXY) were analyzed. The prymnesiophycean Isochrysis galbana (ISO), 5.6-µm polystyrene microspheres (MS), and their mixture (ISO-MS) were used as food objects for O. marina. Dynamics of the abundance of microorganisms and microspheres was investigated using a flow cytometer. As shown, the heterotroph O. marina ingested MP even in the presence of its natural prey (microalgae), and feeding on MP did not result in a decrease in the dinoflagellate abundance. The grazing rates of “preys” in the OXY-ISO-MS mixture were (0.21 ± 0.01) MS·cell−1·h−1 (± standard deviation) and (0.38 ± 0.01) ISO·cell−1·h−1. These rates were significantly lower than in the mono-diet experiments – with OXY-ISO [(1.93 ± 0.68) ISO·cell−1·h−1] and OXY-MS [(0.45 ± 0.04) MS·cell−1·h−1]. Thus, the expansion of the range of food objects led to a decrease in the grazing rate. In the mono-diet experiments, the clearance rates were (0.12 ± 0.04) and (0.19 ± 0.06) μL·cell−1·h−1 for OXY-ISO and OXY-MS, respectively; thereby, O. marina spent less time on capturing ISO cells than on capturing MS. The same pattern was observed in the experiments with the OXY-ISO-MS mixture: the clearance rate for microalgae [(0.17 ± 0.02) μL·cell−1·h−1] was slightly lower than that for MS [(0.19 ± 0.003) μL·cell−1·h−1]. Since O. marina re-consumed MS even in the presence of its natural food object (I. galbana), no trophic adaptation of the dinoflagellate to MS occurred. No selective grazing of O. marina for any “prey” was revealed, either ISO or MS. The obtained results indicate the possibility (and high probability) of the incorporation of MP into the microbial food web and the significant role of unicellular organisms in the transport of MP to higher trophic levels.


T. V. Rauen
researcher, PhD



V. S. Mukhanov
head of department, PhD



L. O. Aganesova
researcher, PhD




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This work was carried out within the framework of IBSS state research assignment “Investigation of mechanisms of controlling production processes in biotechnological complexes with the aim of developing scientific foundations for production of biologically active substances and technical products of marine genesis” (No. 121030300149-0) and “Structural and functional organization, productivity, and sustainability of marinepelagic ecosystems” (No. 121040600178-6).



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