The ciliate list for Plymouth waters has been extended by 14 species using modern taxonomic techniques. Ciliates were abundant in the plankton where they formed a significant food resource. Their community biomass and production was estimated to average 12 µ C 1 and 9 µ C 1 respectively during the summer. The ciliate community was dominated by a diverse assemblage of aloricate choreotrichs, suggesting a complex trophic role for this protozoan group.
Ciliate protozoans are ubiquitous and often abundant in marine waters where they are frequently considered to play an important ecological role in trophic flux and nutrient cycling within the plankton (Fenchel, 1987). In spite of this, however, their ecological role in British coastal waters is poorly understood. In Plymouth waters, for instance, there has been only one previous study of marine pelagic Protozoa (Lackey & Lackey, 1963), despite the presence of a marine laboratory in the region for over 100 years. As the study by Lackey & Lackey (1963) focused solely upon the taxonomy of local protists, the ecological role of protozoans in Plymouth waters is unknown. To redress this anomaly the present pilot study was undertaken in Plymouth waters with the following objectives: to identify the dominant ciliates from this region using techniques unavailable to Lackey & Lackey (1963), to quantify ciliate abundance and cell sizes, and to estimate their biomass and production.
Triplicate water samples were collected, using a 3-litre water bottle, from surface waters at each of four stations along a 20-km transect between Plymouth Sound (50°21'N 04°09'W) and the Eddystone Rock (50°ll'N 04°16'W) during June, July and August 1988.