Metabarcoding and metabolome analyses of copepod grazing reveal feeding preference and linkage to metabolite classes in dynamic microbial plankton communities

Mol Ecol. 2016 Nov;25(21):5585-5602. doi: 10.1111/mec.13844. Epub 2016 Oct 20.


In order to characterize copepod feeding in relation to microbial plankton community dynamics, we combined metabarcoding and metabolome analyses during a 22-day seawater mesocosm experiment. Nutrient amendment of mesocosms promoted the development of haptophyte (Phaeocystis pouchetii)- and diatom (Skeletonema marinoi)-dominated plankton communities in mesocosms, in which Calanus sp. copepods were incubated for 24 h in flow-through chambers to allow access to prey particles (<500 μm). Copepods and mesocosm water sampled six times spanning the experiment were analysed using metabarcoding, while intracellular metabolite profiles of mesocosm plankton communities were generated for all experimental days. Taxon-specific metabarcoding ratios (ratio of consumed prey to available prey in the surrounding seawater) revealed diverse and dynamic copepod feeding selection, with positive selection on large diatoms, heterotrophic nanoflagellates and fungi, while smaller phytoplankton, including P. pouchetii, were passively consumed or even negatively selected according to our indicator. Our analysis of the relationship between Calanus grazing ratios and intracellular metabolite profiles indicates the importance of carbohydrates and lipids in plankton succession and copepod-prey interactions. This molecular characterization of Calanus sp. grazing therefore provides new evidence for selective feeding in mixed plankton assemblages and corroborates previous findings that copepod grazing may be coupled to the developmental and metabolic stage of the entire prey community rather than to individual prey abundances.

Keywords: Phaeocystis pouchetii; Skeletonema marinoi; Calanus grazing; eukaryote V7 SSU; metabarcoding; metabolome profiling; seawater mesocosms; symbiosis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrates / analysis
  • Copepoda / genetics
  • Copepoda / physiology*
  • DNA Barcoding, Taxonomic*
  • Diatoms*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Metabolome*
  • Phytoplankton*
  • Plankton*
  • Seawater


  • Carbohydrates
  • Lipids

Associated data

  • GENBANK/SRP076974
  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.6tn7c