Iron is recognized as a key element regulating primary production in large regions of the ocean, but nothing is known of its direct effect on higher trophic levels. Two species of heterotrophic protozoa were thus fed iron-rich and iron-poor bacterial prey and their growth and metabolism examined. Maximum growth rates of Paraphysomonas imperforata and Paraphysomonas butcheri were observed only when iron Quotas of bacterial prey were >70 mu mol Fe mol C-1. At lower Fe:C ratios, but at constant prey biomass, both species grew significantly slower. Iron quotas of the flagellates at these slow growth rates (similar to 10 mu mol Fe mol C-1) were similar to those of iron-limited phytoplankton and bacteria. Growth rate reduction was likely the result of direct, elemental limitation by iron, judging from the positive response of the protozoa to iron addition and their biochemical characteristics. Filtration and carbon ingestion rates increased under iron limitation, but gross carbon growth efficiency (GCGE) decreased when P. imperforata consumed iron-poor bacteria. Ammonium regeneration efficiency was also reduced. The decrease in GCGE was a consequence of reduced activity of the iron-dependent electron transport system, greater dissolved organic carbon excretion, and greater CO2 evolution by iron-limited protozoa. P. imperforata excreted iron, even when limited by this element, and retained less of the ingested ration than when consuming iron-rich bacteria. Coupled with recent measurements of biogenic Fe:C in the subarctic Pacific, our results suggest that heterotrophic bacterivorous flagellates may experience iron limitation in remote oceanic regions.
Zl189Times Cited:36Cited References Count:58