1. The ingestion rates of planktonic, mixotrophic cryptophytes in two perennially ice-covered Antarctic lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, were investigated during the summer of 1997–1998.
2. In Lake Fryxell, which is meromictic, ingestion rates increased with depth in November and were highest in a cryptophyte maximum close to the chemocline. In Lake Hoare, which is unstratified and freshwater, there was no significant difference in ingestion rates with depth. In both lakes, the highest ingestion rates occurred in early summer, decreasing in December and January. Ingestion rates varied between 0.2 bacteria cell−1 h−1 and 3.6 bacteria cell−1 h−1.
3. During November, mixotrophic cryptophytes removed up to 13% of bacterial biomass day−1 and had a greater grazing impact than heterotrophic nanoflagellates (HNAN). As summer progressed, the grazing impact of cryptophytes and HNAN became similar.
4. The maximum depth of cryptophytes in Lake Fryxell was predated by a population of the ciliate Plagiocampa. Plagiocampa had an ingestion rate of 0.13–0.19 cryptophytes cell−1 h−1. The grazing impact on the cryptophyte community was insignificant. However, the ciliate appeared to be indulging in temporary mixotrophy, sequestering the cryptophytes for a number of weeks before digesting them.
5. It is suggested that mixotrophy is an important survival strategy in the extreme lake ecosystems of the McMurdo Dry Valleys.