Abstract

Benthic foraminifera are heterotrophic protists that utilize different trophic mechanisms and nutritional resources. They exhibit a wide range of trophic behaviours: selective (grazing) and indiscriminate herbivory, symbiosis, carnivory, parasitism, uptake of dissolved organic matter, passive suspension feeding and, most commonly, deposit feeding. The benthic foraminifera Ammonia tepida, previously known as an herbivore, fed as a carnivore in laboratory experiments where mobile metazoans were provided. We observed predation on the three types of metazoans provided: nematodes, copepods, and a larval gastropod. This foraminifera used its pseudopodial network to entrap the invertebrates, which were then stripped of their soft internal tissues within 24 hours. Our experiments are the first to demonstrate that Ammonia tepida, despite its limited motility, is able to utilize larger mobile animals as a food source. The great abundance of small metazoans in most marine environments suggests that they are a food source for foraminifera. Further study of foraminiferal feeding strategies will enhance our understanding of their role in marine communities.

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