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A paradox of the ciliates? High ciliate diversity in a resource-poor environment
Claessens, M.; Wickham, S.A.; Post, A.F.; Reuter, M. (2010). A paradox of the ciliates? High ciliate diversity in a resource-poor environment. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 157(3): 483-494.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Claessens, M.
  • Wickham, S.A.
  • Post, A.F.
  • Reuter, M.

    Ecological theory predicts that low productivity systems should have low biodiversity. However, despite the oligotrophic status of the Gulf of Aqaba (Northern Red Sea) ciliate species richness was unexpectedly high. In addition, phytoplankton, as main ciliate prey, was made up by only few genera, indicating a significant niche overlap among the grazers. Up to 97% of the ciliates were from the same taxonomic group and of the same size range, implying very similar food niches. Ciliate diversity was highest at times of lowest chlorophyll concentrations, during the period of stable abiotic conditions, but relatively high genetic diversity within the ciliate prey, notably among the cyanobacteria Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus. In the absence of disturbance and with little predation pressure, the alternate explanations for the observed ciliate diversity are either very fine niche partitioning by the ciliates, or their competitive equivalence resulting in a random assortment of species immigrating from a larger metacommunity, in accordance with Hubbell’s, (The unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2001) neutral model. While the use of species abundance distributions (SAD’s) is far from definitive, the theoretical SAD’s that best fit the Gulf of Aqaba ciliate data was most often not that expected by neutral theory.

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