Variable selectivity and the role of nutritional quality in food selection by a planktonic rotifer
To investigate the potential for selective feeding to enhance fitness, I test the hypothesis that an herbivorous zooplankter selects those food items that best support its reproduction. Under this hypothesis, growth and reproduction on selected food items should be higher than on less preferred items. The hypothesis is not supported. In situ selectivity by the rotifer Keratel/a taurocephala for Cryptomonas relative to Chlamydomonas goes through a seasonal cycle, in apparent response to fluctuating Cryptomonas populations. However, reproduction on a unialgal diet of Cryptomonas is consistently high and similar to that on Chlamydomonas. Oocystis, which also supports reproduction equivalent to that supported by Chlamydomonas, is sometimes rejected by K. taurocephala. In addition, K. taurocephala does not discriminate between Merismopedia and Chlamydomonas even though Merismopedia supports virtually no reproduction by the rotifer. Selection by K. taurocephala does not simply maximize the intake of food items that yield high reproduction. Selectivity is a complex, dynamic process, one function of which may be the exploitation of locally or seasonally abundant foods.