By applying state-of-the-art holographic microscopy to a major marine biology challenge, researchers from two Baltimore institutions have identified the swimming and attack patterns of two tiny but deadly microbes linked to fish kills in the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways. The study focused on the aquatic hunting tactics of two single-celled creatures classified as dinoflagellates. These two-tailed microbes feed on even smaller prey that are attracted to the algal blooms caused by water pollution. Scientists are concerned because these dinoflagellates produce toxins that can kill large numbers of fish.
The research shows that microscopic predators apparently need to alter their behavior in order to bring down their tiny prey. In the fluid realm of fast-swimming microbes, the scientists said, this study has shown for the first time just how the dinoflagellate predators respond to cues and alter the way in which they swim to become more formidable hunters.
The research is believed to represent a milestone in the application of in-line digital holographic microscopy. Gaining a better understanding of the behavior of these microbes may lead to new ways to avert the increase of fish kills attributed to dinoflagellate toxins.