Overview

Distribution

These calenoid copepods were originally observed in the Indo-Pacific region. This species is now regarded as cosmopolitan and is found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Sea of Azov, the Baltic, Black, Capsian, Mediterranean, and North Seas, and also the Gulf of Mexico and other marine environments, as well as estuaries. Its wide geographical range may be the result of transportation in the ballast water of ships.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); palearctic (Introduced ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Introduced ); australian (Native ); antarctica (Introduced ); arctic ocean (Introduced ); indian ocean (Native ); atlantic ocean (Introduced ); pacific ocean (Native ); mediterranean sea (Introduced )

Other Geographic Terms: cosmopolitan

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Physical Description

Morphology

These copepods are small crustaceans ranging from 0.5 mm to 1.5 mm in length. They have translucent, bilaterally symmetrical bodies, and can be differentiated from closely related species by their long first antennae (at least half the length of their bodies) and biramous (branched) second antennae, as well as the presence of a joint between their fifth and sixth body segments. Their bodies lack a protective carapace and have three segments: prosome (head and sensory organs), metasome (housing their legs and swimmerets), and urosome (where their sexual organs are located). These copepods use a pair of maxillipeds to chew food. Females are typically slightly larger than males and their antennae are longer and straighter; males' antennae are curved at the tips and are used for grasping the female during reproduction. Males and females can also be differentiated based on the morphology of their urosomes and swimmerets (pleopods). Male urosomes have five somites (four in females), and female swimmerets are modified for egg brooding and tend to be thicker and more filamentous than those of males.

Range length: 0.5 to 1.5 mm.

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.00057 cm3.O2/g/hr.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; sexes shaped differently

  • Hubareva, E., L. Svetlichny, A. Kideys, M. Isinibilir. 2008. Fate of the Black Sea Acartia clausi and Acartia tonsa (Copepoda) penetrating into the Marmara Sea through the Bosphorus. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 76/1: 131-140.
  • Marcus, N., J. Wilcox. 2007. "A Guide to the Meso-Scale Production of the Copepod Acartia tonsa" (On-line). Biology of Acartia tonsa Dana 1849. Accessed February 21, 2012 at http://www.flseagrant.org/program_areas/aquaculture/copepod/about.htm.
  • Thor, P. 2003. Elevated respiration rates of the neritic copepod Acartia tonsa during recovery from starvation. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 283/1-2: 133-143.
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Ecology

Habitat

These copepods are free-swimming, planktonic crustaceans that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures (-1 to 32ºC) and salinities (1 ppt to 38 ppt), and can survive sudden changes in these conditions. They are most commonly found in depths from 0-50 meters and temperatures of 17-25ºC, though they have been found as deep as 600 meters. They are commonly found in coastal waters, including brackish estuaries, and often inhabit environmental niches that avoid overlap with closely related species. For example, it is the dominant species of copepod in the lagoons of the North Adriatic Sea, while Acartia clausi is the dominant copepod species in adjacent coastal waters.

Range depth: 1 to 60 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; polar ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: pelagic ; coastal ; brackish water

Other Habitat Features: estuarine

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Known from seamounts and knolls
  • Stocks, K. 2009. Seamounts Online: an online information system for seamount biology. Version 2009-1. World Wide Web electronic publication.
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Depth range based on 1283 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 35 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 50
  Temperature range (°C): 17.759 - 25.754
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.820 - 2.317
  Salinity (PPS): 28.899 - 35.846
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.680 - 5.490
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.175 - 0.741
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.842 - 9.087

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 50

Temperature range (°C): 17.759 - 25.754

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.820 - 2.317

Salinity (PPS): 28.899 - 35.846

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.680 - 5.490

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.175 - 0.741

Silicate (umol/l): 1.842 - 9.087
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Migration

Alien species

Prior to its introduction in Europe Acartia (Acanthacartia) tonsa only occurred in the Indo-Pacific region. The exact origin of the species however remains unknown. This small crustacean came to Europe through transport in ballast water of ships and in 1916, a first European observation was reported. In 1952 the species was found in the Sea Scheldt, a first mentioning of A. tonsa for our region. Later, in the sixties, the species was found in the Ostend Sluice Dock. Salty as well as brackish areas serve as its habitat and this alien species can compete with indigenous plankton species.
  • VLIZ Alien Species Consortium
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Alien species

Hoewel het langsprietroeipootkreeftje Acartia (Acanthacartia) tonsa vóór zijn introductie in Europa enkel terug te vinden was in de Indo-Pacifische regio en langs de oostkust van de Verenigde Staten, is de exacte herkomst van dit diertje toch onbekend. Deze kreeftachtige raakte via transport in ballastwater van schepen tot in Europa, waar de eerste melding dateert van 1916. In 1952 werd de soort voor het eerst bij ons waargenomen in de Zeeschelde. Later, in de jaren zestig, kwamen ook meldingen binnen vanuit de Oostendse Spuikom. De soort gedijt zowel in zoute als brakke wateren en kan in competitie treden met inheemse planktonsoorten. Een deel van het succes van deze exoot is te danken aan de productie van rusteieren.
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Trophic Strategy

This species is omnivorous. Individuals feed on nauplii of other copepods (such as Canuella perplexa), dinoflagellates, cilliates (such as Strombidium sulcatum), protozoans, phytoplankton, bacterioplankton, algae, and diatoms (such as Thalassiosira weissflog). They feed in two different ways, depending on what type of prey is available in the greatest numbers. To feed on immotile prey (plankton, diatoms, etc), they produce a feeding current using their feeding appendages and thoracopods to draw in food. They then filter the cells by using their second maxillae to squeeze water out. To feed on motile prey (ciliates, etc), these copepods sink in the water without moving their feeding appendages and sense prey using mechanoreceptors on their antennae, then reorienting themselves and "jumping" to catch their prey when they are 0.1-0.7 mm away. Each method is specialized for its prey type; mechanoreceptors will not help to sense immotile prey and motile prey can escape feeding currents.

Animal Foods: other marine invertebrates; zooplankton

Plant Foods: algae; phytoplankton

Other Foods: microbes

Foraging Behavior: filter-feeding

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods); herbivore (Algivore); omnivore ; planktivore

  • Kiørboe, T., E. Saiz, M. Viitasalo. 1996. rey switching behaviour in the planktonic copepod Acartia tonsa. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 143: 65-75. Accessed February 04, 2013 at http://www.int-res.com/articles/meps/143/m143p065.pdf.
  • Roman, M., M. Reaugh, X. Zhang. 2006. Ingestion of the dinoflagellate, Pfiesteria piscicida, by the calanoid copepod, Acartia tonsa. Harmful Algae, 5/4: 435-441.
  • Saiz, E., T. Kiørboe. 1995. redatory and suspension feeding of the copepod Acartia tonsa in turbulent environments. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 122: 147-158. Accessed February 04, 2013 at http://www.int-res.com/articles/meps/122/m122p147.pdf.
  • Stoecker, D., D. Eglof. 1987. Predation by Acartia tonsa Dana on planktonic ciliates and rotifers. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 110/1: 53-68.
  • Tackx, M., P. Polk. 1982. Feeding of Acartia tonsa Dana (Copepoda, Calanoida): predation on nauplii of Canuella perplexa T. & A. Scott (Copepoda, Harpacticoida) in the Sluice-dock at Ostend. Hydrobiologia, 94: 131-133. Accessed February 04, 2013 at http://bio.emodnet.eu/component/imis/?module=ref&refid=3388.
  • Turner, J., P. Tester. 1989. Zooplankton feeding ecology: nonselective grazing by the copepods Acartia tonsa Dana, Centropages velificatus De Oliveira, and Eucalanus pileatus Giesbrecht in the plume of the Mississippi River. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 126/1: 21-43.
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Associations

This species is integral to the oceanic food chain. It feeds on algae and phytoplankton, and is a food source for fish and large mammals. These pelagic copepods can represent 55-95% of the copepod populations in some areas. They also play an important role in the mixing and cycling of nutrients and energy in marine ecosystems, forming a trophodynamic link connecting primary (phytoplankton) and tertiary (e.g., planktivorous fish) production, and are considered a keystone species. They are also important regulators of the marine nitrogen cycle, excreting both inorganic nitrogen (as ammonium) and organic nitrogen (urea).

These copepods can act as hosts for ciliate protazoa (Epistylus sp.). These parasites attach to the cuticle using their stalked-suckers, causing lesions in the cuticle that lead to subsequent bacterial infection, as well as infections by an epibiont, Zoothamnium intermedium. They serve as intermediate hosts for an ectoparasitic bopyrid isopod, Probopyrus pandalicola, whose definitive host is freshwater shrimp. Resarchers have also isolated a virus from this species, "Acartia tonsa copepod circo-like virus" (AtCopCV), which may significantly impact population sizes.

Ecosystem Impact: keystone species

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Beck, J. 1979. Population interactions between a parasitic castrator, Probopyrus pandalicola (Isopoda: Bopyridae), and one of its freshwater shrimp hosts, Palaemonetes paludosus (Decapoda: Caridea). Parasitology, 79/3: 431-449. Accessed February 04, 2013 at http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=578349A91D32BE471E1D2C1BE51C1AB3.journals?fromPage=online&aid=4117960.
  • Dunlap, D., T. Ng, K. Rosario, J. Barbosa, A. Greco, M. Breitbart, I. Hewson. 2013. Molecular and microscopic evidence of viruses in marine copepods. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1216595110: doi: 10.1073/pnas.1216595110. Accessed February 04, 2013 at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/01/04/1216595110.abstract.
  • Turner, J., M. Postek, S. Collard. 1979. Infestation of the Estuarine Copepod Acartia tonsa with the Ciliate Epistylis. Transactions of the American Microscopical Society, 98/1: 136-138.
  • Utz, L. 2008. Attachment of the peritrich epibiont Zoothamnium intermedium Precht, 1935 (Ciliophora, Peritrichia) to artificial substrates in a natural environment. Brazilian Journal of Biology, 68/4: 795-798. Accessed February 04, 2013 at http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1519-69842008000400013&script=sci_arttext.
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These copepods are a food source for many species including birds, corals, crustaceans, fishes, jellyfishes, poplychaete worms, seahorses and whales.

This species exhibits a startle behavior to light and water vibrations, consisting of a short burst of swimming speed when an individual is stimulated. This photophobic behavior may be an adaptation to avoid predators such as cnidarian medusae and ctenophores, which cast shadows from above during the day.

Known Predators:

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Known predators

  • B. J. Copeland, K. R. Tenore, D. B. Horton, Oligohaline regime. In: Coastal Ecological Systems of the United States, H. T. Odum, B. J. Copeland, E. A. McMahan, Eds. (Conservation Foundation, Washington, DC, 1974) 2:315-357, from p. 318.
  • Christian RR, Luczkovich JJ (1999) Organizing and understanding a winter’s seagrass foodweb network through effective trophic levels. Ecol Model 117:99–124
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Known prey organisms

Acartia tonsa (Zooplankton) preys on:
Dinoflagellata
phytoplankton
bacterioplankton
Microprotozoa

Based on studies in:
USA: North Carolina, Pamlico (Estuarine)
USA: Florida (Estuarine)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • B. J. Copeland, K. R. Tenore, D. B. Horton, Oligohaline regime. In: Coastal Ecological Systems of the United States, H. T. Odum, B. J. Copeland, E. A. McMahan, Eds. (Conservation Foundation, Washington, DC, 1974) 2:315-357, from p. 318.
  • Christian RR, Luczkovich JJ (1999) Organizing and understanding a winter’s seagrass foodweb network through effective trophic levels. Ecol Model 117:99–124
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

This species uses a set of sensory antennae to detect the surrounding environment. These antennae detect abnormal vibrational patterns, food particulates, chemicals, and nearby mates. In their naupliar larval stages, antennae are used for swimming, becoming modified for sensory purposes in adulthood. These copepods have simple eyes that are unable to form complete images, but are highly photosensitive.

Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; vibrations ; chemical

  • Jakobsen, H., E. Halvorsen, B. Hansen, A. Visser. 2005. Effects of prey motility and concentration on feeding in Acartia tonsa and Temora longicornis: the importance of feeding modes. JOURNAL OF PLANKTON RESEARCH, 27/8: 775-785.
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Life Cycle

Life cycle and development for this copepod is typical of most copepods. Fertilized eggs, which are spherical, approximately 70-80 µm in diameter, and covered in short spines, slowly sink. Eggs develop and hatch into nauplii within approximately 48 hours (at 25°C, an average water temperature for this species). If water temperatures are too cold, eggs will usually sink to the bottom and enter diapause, hatching when water temperatures rise above 10°C. Nauplii have a maxillopodan eye, which is a simple, median eye with several photoreceptors. These copepods go through six nauplius stages before becoming copepodites, losing their maxillopodan eyes. Copepodites then metamorphose through six additional stages, finally becoming sexually mature adults. Development from newly fertilized egg to adult takes less than 3 days, on average.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis ; diapause

  • 2013. "Acartia tonsa Dana, 1849 – a planktonic copepod" (On-line). NOBANIS: European Network on Invasive Alien Species. Accessed February 01, 2013 at http://www.nobanis.org/MarineIdkey/Small%20crustaceans/AcartiaTonsa.htm.
  • Saiz, E., P. Tiselius, P. Jonsson, P. Verity, G. Paffenhofer. 1993. Experimental Records of the Effects of Food Patchiness and Predation on Egg Production of Acartia tonsa. Limnology and Oceanography, 38/2: 280-89.
  • Teixeira, P., S. Kaminski, T. Avila, A. Cardozo, J. Bersano, A. Bianchini. 2010. Diet influence on egg production of the copepod Acartia tonsa (Dana, 1896). Annals of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, 82/2: 333-339.
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Life Expectancy

Females survive longer than males, 70-80 days versus 15 days. Longevity is influenced by food availability, predation, salinity, and temperature.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
14 to 80 days.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
14 to 80 days.

  • Miller, C., M. Roman. 2008. Effects of food nitrogen content and concentration on the forms of nitrogen excreted by the calanoid copepod, Acartia tonsa. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 359/1: 11-17.
  • Richmond, C., N. Marcus, C. Sedlacek, G. Miller, C. Oppert. 2006. Hypoxia and seasonal temperature: Short-term effects and long-term implications for Acartia tonsa dana. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 328/2: 177-196.
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Reproduction

Limiting factors of this species' breeding season can include the amount of light, temperature, salinity, and oxygen concentration. In northern parts of its range, breeding tends to occur during the late summer and early fall, and in southern areas there is often a breeding peak in the early spring; if conditions are optimal, this species may breed year-round. Multiple generations are produced per breeding season. These copepods are polygynandrous, and rely on hydromechanical signals to find mates rather than pheromones. A male and female encounter each other spontaneously and, when a female comes within range, a male detects her movements, and responds in kind. The pair perform a series of synchronized "hops" until the male is close enough to catch the female, followed by mating.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

These copepods are dioecious and both sexes may be reproductively active throughout the year; breeding season depends largely on environmental factors such as water temperature. Females produce eggs for 3-4 weeks at a time and can release a brood of 20-53 eggs every 5-6 days. During mating, males clasp females with their claw-like antennae and deposit spermatophores onto their urosomes, where the eggs are fertilized. After fertilization, eggs are released. Males may mate consecutively with multiple females.

Breeding interval: During breeding season, females produce egg clutches every 5-6 days.

Breeding season: This species may breed year round under optimal conditions; most typically, they breed during warmer months.

Range number of offspring: 20 to 50.

Average gestation period: 48 hours.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

These copepods exhibit no parental care to their young once fertilized eggs have been released.

Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning)

  • 2013. "Acartia tonsa Dana, 1849 – a planktonic copepod" (On-line). NOBANIS: European Network on Invasive Alien Species. Accessed February 01, 2013 at http://www.nobanis.org/MarineIdkey/Small%20crustaceans/AcartiaTonsa.htm.
  • Bagøien, E., T. Kiørboe. 2005. Blind dating—mate finding in planktonic copepods. III. Hydromechanical communication in Acartia tonsa. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 300: 129-133. Accessed February 01, 2013 at http://www.int-res.com/articles/meps2005/300/m300p129.pdf.
  • Drillet, G., P. Jepsen, J. Højgaard, N. Jørgensen, B. Hansen. 2008. Strain-specific vital rates in four Acartia tonsa cultures II: Life history traits and biochemical contents of eggs and adults. Aquaculture, 279/1-4: 47-54.
  • Holste, L., M. Peck. 2005. The effects of temperature and salinity on egg production and hatching success of Baltic Acartia tonsa (Copepoda: Calanoida): a laboratory investigation. Marine Biology, 148/5: 1061-1070.
  • Marcus, N., J. Wilcox. 2007. "A Guide to the Meso-Scale Production of the Copepod Acartia tonsa" (On-line). Biology of Acartia tonsa Dana 1849. Accessed February 21, 2012 at http://www.flseagrant.org/program_areas/aquaculture/copepod/about.htm.
  • Mauchline, J. 1998. The Biology of Calanoid Copepods. San Diego, California: Elsevier. Accessed February 22, 2012 at http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=fbsrq6CvYkAC&pg=PA4#v=onepage&q&f=false.
  • Saiz, E., P. Tiselius, P. Jonsson, P. Verity, G. Paffenhofer. 1993. Experimental Records of the Effects of Food Patchiness and Predation on Egg Production of Acartia tonsa. Limnology and Oceanography, 38/2: 280-89.
  • Sei, S., M. Invidia, G. Gorbi. 2006. Near anoxia and sulfide as possible factors influencing the spatial distribution of Acartia tonsa and Acartia clausi: Comparative evaluation of egg tolerance. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 337/2: 121-130.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Acartia tonsa

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 68 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACTTTATATTTATTAGCAGGGATGTGATCAGGGATAGTCGGAACCGGTTTG---AGAATGATCATTCGAATAGAACTAGGCCAAGCAGGAAGATTAATTGGAGAT---GACCAAATTTATAACGTAGTGGTAACGGCTCACGCTTTTATTATAATTTTTTTTATAGTTATGCCTATTTTAATTGGAGGGTTTGGTAACTGATTAGTACCTCTAATA---TTAGGAGCAGCAGATATAGCTTTCCCTCGAATAAATAACATAAGATTTTGATTATTGTTACCAGCTTTAATTATACTATTATCCAGATCATTAGTAGAAAGGGGCGCTGGCACAGGATGAACAGTCTACCCTCCTTTGTCAAGTAATATCGCACATGCCGGAGCATCTGTAGACTTC---GCTATTTTTTCTTTACACCTCGCAGGTGCTAGGTCGATTTTAGGAGCAGTAAATTTTATTTCCACAATTGGCAACCTTCGGTCTTTTGGAATAGTGCTTGATTTGATGCCTTTGTTTGCATGAGCAGTTCTAATTACGGCAGTATTACTCCTACTATCACTACCTGTATTAGCTGGG---GCAATTACTATATTATTAACAGACCGAAATTTAAACTCTTCTTTTTATGACGCAAGGGGAGGAGGAGACCCAATTTTATACCAACATTTG------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------TTT
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Acartia tonsa

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 70
Specimens with Barcodes: 72
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

This species is not endangered under the IUCN Red List, CITES appendices, nor the United States Endangered Species Act list. It is a ubiquitous, cosmopolitan copepod that can be found inhabiting almost every ocean.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: special concern

  • International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. 2012. "IUCN Red List" (On-line). Accessed February 04, 2013 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/search.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

If these copepods overfeed on algae, they may adversely affect the feeding and growth of many species of marine fish and mollusks that seafood industries rely on.

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These copepods are food for many fish species that account for a tremendous portion of many countries' economies (food, tourism, etc). They are also grown in mass aquaculture tanks to provide food for commercial fish hatcheries. Additionally, they have been used as a control species for Pfiesteria piscicida, an estuarine dinoflagellate that has been responsible for many coastal fish kills. These copepods can also limit the growth of coastal harmful algal blooms, including red tides, which not only affect coastal ecosystems but can present a health threat to humans.

Positive Impacts: research and education; controls pest population

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