Effect of Brachionus rubens on the growth characteristics of various species of microalgae
Background: Cultivation of algae for conversion to biofuels has gained global interest. Outdoor raceway cultivation is preferred because of its lower capital and operating costs. A major disadvantage of outdoor cultivation is susceptibility of algal crops to attack by predatory rotifers. In order to quantify the impact of rotifer attack on different species of algae, we evaluated the growth of eleven microalgal species over a 21-d period after being infected by the predatory rotifer Brachionus rubens. Results: Of the eleven species, Chlorella sorokiniana was the most susceptible with rapid decline in algal growth concomitant with increase in rotifer population growth (3.82/d). In contrast, Synechococcus elongatus andScenedesmus dimorphus were both resistant to the rotifer and suppressed rotifer growth (-0.06/d). An index of algal species susceptibility to be consumed by the rotifer was generated with C. sorokiniana as the baseline (index = 1.000) indicating most susceptible among species tested. Other species' susceptibilities are indicated in parenthesis as follows: Monoraphidium spp. (0.997), Chlamydomonas globosa (0.827), Botryococcus braunii(0.740), Chlorella minutissima (0.570), Chlamydomonas augustae (0.530), Chlamydomonas yellowstonensis (0.500), Scenedesmus bijuga (0.420), and Haematococcus pluvialis (0.360). Two species, namely, S. dimorphus andS. elongatus were unique in that they exhibited an ability to suppress the growth of the rotifer as indicated by the decline in rotifer populations in their presence. Conclusions: Variations in susceptibility of algal species to rotifer predation could be a result of their individual morphology, cell walls structure, or the biochemical composition of individual species.