Ecology of ciliated protists in Kenyan lakes

Protistan molecular diversity, community structure and taxonomy of ciliates in Rift Valley Lakes in Kenya

Conservation of aquatic ecosystems in Kenya has been largely hampered by limited knowledge on ecosystem functions. The alkaline–saline (Soda) Rift Valley lakes are unique ecosystems that remain largely understudied in terms of processes controlling distribution of species, community structure and food–web dynamics. The lakes are important reservoirs of biodiversity and conservation and have specialized biota that are highly dependent on the ecosystem.

Food webs in these lakes often differ from typical food webs in other lakes. Zooplankton and fish are either missing or are represented by only a few taxa and the microbial component dominates. Protists are of primary importance as the main consumers of microalgae and bacterioplankton. This study provides a taxonomic inventory of protists in the five Rift Valley lakes (ranging from freshwater to hyper-saline) using a morphologic and a molecular approach (454 pyrosequencing) to demonstrate the protistan diversity in the lakes. The community composition and abundance of ciliates in Lake Bogoria will be investigated and a comprehensive morphological and phylogenetic description of the key ciliate species provided by using classical morphological methods and the 18s rRNA gene respectively.

Funded by the Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research OEAD (APPEAR – fellowship ICM-2010-01186) and the German International Exchange Program (DAAD fellowship A/10/96779).

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