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The main research goal of this project is focused on trophic interactions within microbenthic communities in aquatic systems. Grazer-microalgae interactions are investigated by conducting field and laboratory experiments in order to get a closer idea of the microphytobenthos community structure itself. Especially the role of morphological and physiological adaptations of microalgae in the presence of specific meio- and macrofaunal predators are of great interest. In addition to that we have devised a new benthic sensor for the quantitative and qualitative assessment in situ of diverse populations of microphytobenthos with high spatial and temporal resolution, enabling rapid evaluation of the community structure and distribution.
Marine invertebrates show a large variety of feeding strategies. These comprise mechanisms for catching prey, the uptake of food and the utilisation of various food sources. Morphological and anatomical adaptations allow for the capture and the ingestion of the food. However, the organism's physiological properties are the key for the efficient digestion, the nutrient uptake and the assimilation of food. In response to environmental factors marine organisms have developed highly specialised biochemical adaptations which are particularly reflected by the immeasurable diversity of digestive enzymes. The detailed function of digestive enzymes in marine invertebrates and, particularly, their synergistic interplay is still poorly understood.The overall aim is to investigate the mechanisms of enzymatic food utilisation and enzyme induction in different taxa of marine invertebrates in response to environmental factors.