University Of Tasmania

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First observations of living sea-ice diatom agglomeration to tintinnid loricae in East Antarctica

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 08:04 authored by Linda ArmbrechtLinda Armbrecht, Ruth EriksenRuth Eriksen, Leventer, A, Armand, LK
Tintinnid ciliates are an important link in marine food webs as they feed on phytoplankton and bacteria while providing nutrients to higher trophic levels. Tintinnids are known to agglutinate mineral particles or dead biogenic material such as diatom frustules to their shell-like housing (lorica), however, reasons for this agglutination remain questioned. We report on our observation of agglomeration of the living diatoms Fragilariopsis curta, F. cylindrus, F. pseudonana and F. rhombica to loricae of the Antarctic tintinnid ciliates Laackmanniella naviculaefera and Codonellopsis gaussi. These unusual associations between living diatoms and tintinnids were exclusively observed south of 63.59°S. We discuss the significance of our new finding and generate hypotheses to be tested by future research. It remains unclear where these living diatom–tintinnid associations are initially formed (in or near sea ice or also further north when abundances of L. naviculaefera, C. gaussi, F. curta, F. cylindrus, F. pseudonana and F. rhombica happen to be relatively high); who the beneficiary is in this association; what the exact benefits are; and how they might influence the Southern Ocean carbon cycle. Nevertheless, our observation provides a key step forward towards illuminating the largely unknown ecology of two Southern Ocean-endemic tintinnid species.


Publication title

Journal of Plankton Research










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Oxford Univ Press

Place of publication

Great Clarendon St, Oxford, England, Ox2 6Dp

Rights statement

Copyright 2017 The Authors

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Biodiversity in Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments