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Title: Selective and differential feeding on marine prokaryotes by mucous mesh feeders

Microbial mortality impacts the structure of food webs, carbon flow, and the interactions that create dynamic patterns of abundance across gradients in space and time in diverse ecosystems. In the oceans, estimates of microbial mortality by viruses, protists, and small zooplankton do not account fully for observations of loss, suggesting the existence of underappreciated mortality sources. We examined how ubiquitous mucous mesh feeders (i.e. gelatinous zooplankton) could contribute to microbial mortality in the open ocean. We coupled capture of live animals by blue‐water diving to sequence‐based approaches to measure the enrichment and selectivity of feeding by two coexisting mucous grazer taxa (pteropods and salps) on numerically dominant marine prokaryotes. We show that mucous mesh grazers consume a variety of marine prokaryotes and select between coexisting lineages and similar cell sizes. We show thatProchlorococcusmay evade filtration more than other cells and that planktonic archaea are consumed by macrozooplanktonic grazers. Discovery of these feeding relationships identifies a new source of mortality for Earth's dominant marine microbes and alters our understanding of how top‐down processes shape microbial community and function.

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Journal Name:
Environmental Microbiology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 880-893
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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