Marine Ecology June 2007 Vol 28(2)
In this review we evaluate whether universal behavioral and metabolic mechanisms exist, which permit marine proto- and metazooplankton to persist in continuously food-limited environments such as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre and other oligotrophic ocean systems. We re-visit the issue of what processes account for low steady-state abundance of the dominant groups of planktonic grazers: phagotrophic protists and copepods, by examining evidence for the four processes proposed by Strom et al. (2000): grazing thresholds, behavioral response to prey patchiness, top–down control of grazers, and mixotrophy (combination of photosynthesis and phagotrophy in protists) and/or omnivory (switching between alternate prey types). Published observations reveal that grazing thresholds, below which feeders reduce their feeding efforts and, with that, their metabolic expenditures, do exist. There are also studies suggesting that both protistan and small metazoan plankton feeders may take advantage of patchiness of food particles and are frequently mixotrophic and/or omnivorous. Predator patchiness in response to prey patches may facilitate top–down control of grazers. Finally, we discuss processes, which may lead to low quasi steady-state abundances of food particles and feeders.
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