J Phycol. 2008 Feb;44(1):164-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2007.00441.x.


Life cycle and perennation of a colorless chrysophyte, Spumella sp., isolated from an ephemeral ditch were investigated. From a single resting cyst (statospore), only one nonmotile cell germinated. Shortly after germination, the cell generated flagella, started to swim, and formed a gelatinous sphere. The cell itself retained the ability to swim within the sphere. Cells fed on bacteria inhabiting the sphere and grew by longitudinal binary cell division very rapidly. The gelatinous sphere gradually enlarged as the number of cells increased. When it reached maximum size (∼500 μm in diameter), the gelatinous substance of the sphere weakened, and the sphere gradually broke into several pieces, forming cleavages between them. Cells swam away through the cleavages. Five to ∼40 swimming cells soon gathered and formed a swarm. In the swarm, some cells cannibalized other sibling cells and enlarged, resulting in giant cells that were two to three times larger in diameter than ordinary cells. The giant cells soon started statospore formation. Statospore formation was independent of any changes of environmental factors, such as increase or decrease in temperature or changes in nutrient or light levels, which are known to induce resting-cyst formation in other groups of algae and protists. Statospore formation started when cells divided 15 to 16 times after germination. This is congruent with the idea that statospore formation in planktonic chrysophytes directly depends on cell density. An extraordinarily high growth rate and cannibalism involved in the initiation of statospore formation are interpreted as adaptations to achieve the perennation in ephemeral aquatic environments.

Keywords: Chrysophyceae; cannibalism; colorless chrysophyte; doubling time; growth rate; heterotrophic flagellate.