The pre-ingestive selection of microphytobenthic algae by the cockle Cerastoderma edule was studied in comparison with diets containing the pelagic diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum. Treatments with the different diets covered a range of seston concentrations and organic content similar to field conditions. Rejection rates of C. edule exposed to the different treatments were significantly correlated with the concentration of total particulate matter. No significant differences in total rejection rates were found between pelagic and benthic diets. Organic rejection rate was significantly correlated with particulate organic matter of the treatments and no significant differences were found between both diets. Selection efficiency was significantly correlated with particulate organic matter concentration in both diets and no significant differences were found between the diets. Analysis of the pseudofeces composition by flow cytometry from cockles exposed to a mixed diet of microphytobenthic algae and P. tricornutum, showed a preferential ingestion of the pelagic diatom. Benthic species, such as small pennates and Navicula sp., were preferentially ingested in comparison to larger microphytobenthic species. The largest microphytobenthic species, Cylindrotheca sp., was significantly rejected. In general, C. edule is an opportunistic filter feeder that takes advantage of both pelagic and benthic algal cells.
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