• Bloom formation;
  • ingestion rate;
  • nutritional benefits;
  • Strobilidium spp

ABSTRACT. Ceratium furca is a primarily photosynthetic dinoflagellate also capable of ingesting other protists. During 1995 and 1996, we documented the abundance of C. furca in Chesapeake Bay and determined grazing rates on prey labeled with fluorescent microspheres. Abundance usually remained below 20 cells ml−1, although the species was capable of localized late-summer blooms (≤ 478 cells ml−1) in the more saline lower to mid-Bay region. Feeding rates ranged from 0 to 0.11 prey dinoflagellate−1 h−1 or from 0 to 37 pg C dinoflagellate−1 h−1 and were highest at lower salinities. Clearance rates averaged 2.5 ± 0.35 μl dinoflagellate−1 h−1. Impact of C. furca feeding on prey populations was higher in the lower Bay, averaging 67% of Strobilidium spp. removed d−1. Ingeslion rates were positively correlated with prey abundance and dissolved inorganic nitrogen, but negatively with salinity, depth, dissolved inorganic phosphorus, and inorganic P:N ratio. Daily consumption of prey biomass by C. furca averaged 4.6% of body carbon, 6.5% of body nitrogen, and 4.0% of body phosphorus, with maximal values of 36, 51, and 32%, respectively. Thus, the ability to exploit an organic nutrient source when inorganic nutrients are limiting may give C. furca a competitive advantage over purely photosynthetic species.