I am a dinoflagellate – a single-celled microscopic plankton of the fine lineage Karlodinium armiger. I’m a pretty peaceful dude-lady – I just chillax on the ocean’s surface, spinning my flagella and soaking up the sun. The only thing I thought I had to worry about was getting eaten by one of those nasty copepods.
But now I’m afraid there might be something wrong with me. We were having a bloom event like we dinoflagellates do – sometimes you just gotta get your freak on, you know? All of a sudden I started to feel…hungry, which was strange because the sun was out. I blacked out and when I came to, my feeding tube was stuck in a giant dead worm larvae, and I was slurping up its innards! There were zooplankton bodies strewn everywhere, with my K. armiger peeps were crawling all over their silent corpses! I mean, I know zooplankton are our ancient enemies, but this seems extreme. Now I’m afraid that I’m a psycho killer. Help!
Karlodinium armiger the 21,783,912th
I know it must be alarming to go from a peaceful plant-plankton to voracious hell-beast, but apparently that is how K. armiger do it when you are having a bloom. While many dinoflagellates sup upon the occasional fellow single celled organism (this is called “mixotrophy“), you guys are the only ones who really go for balls-to-the-wall carnivory. Congratulations!
And you are indeed pretty scary. Using a potent neurotoxin, you can paralyze an adult copepod thousands of times bigger than yourselves in less than 15 minutes. Once your prey is helpless, you wriggle your feeding tube between its carapace segments and SLURRRP. In the lab, you and your buddies ate an entire copepod in less than two days. That is some serious hunger, my friend.
But eventually your bloom must end. Once most of you have died off, you’ll return to photosynthesizing and getting eaten by zooplankton. Once more you will be a fine upstanding member of the plankton community…at least until the next bloom….
I guess that wasn’t too comforting. Sorry, Karlo. You probably just should embrace your dark side.