Mesodinium spp. are commonly found in marine and brackish waters, and several species are known to contain red, green, or both plastids that originate from cryptophyte prey. We observed the seasonal succession of Mesodinium spp. in a Japanese brackish lake, and we analysed the origin and diversity of the various coloured plastids within the cells of Mesodinium spp. using a newly developed primer set that specifically targets the cryptophyte nuclear 18S rRNA gene. Mesodinium rubrum isolated from the lake contained only red plastids originating from cryptophyte Teleaulax amphioxeia. We identified novel Mesodinium sp. that contained only green plastids or both red and green plastids originating from cryptophytes Hemiselmis sp. and Teleaulax acuta. Although the morphology of the newly identified Mesodinium sp. was indistinguishable from that of M. rubrum under normal light microscopy, phylogenetic analysis placed this species between the M. rubrum/major species complex and a well-supported lineage of M. chamaeleon and M. coatsi. Close associations were observed in cryptophyte species composition within cells of Mesodinium spp. and in ambient water samples. The appearance of suitable cryptophyte prey is probably a trigger for succession of Mesodinium spp., and the subsequent abundance of Mesodinium spp. appears to be influenced by water temperature and dissolved inorganic nutrients.
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