So many life forms still await discovery and there are much more undiscovered species in the "invisible world" of microscopic organisms underwater. Congratulations Garry Benico and team for this new species called Karlodinium azanzae named after the super red tide queen of the Philippines Dr. Rhodora V. Azanza 🙂 (https://doi.org/10.1111/jpy.13030).
This new species is a fascinating phytoplankton that can cook up its own food through photosynthesis but can also "eat out" and feed on large animal plankton (called zooplankton) using special feeding tubes. "Tiny but nasty" - as the lead author calls it - it can also cause the death of other zooplankton like the young stage of shellfish, possibly by producing toxic substances. There are actually many plankton that blur the line between plant-like and animal-like behavior and they're called "mixotrophs" but it's more rare to observe one that can take on those larger than itself like K. azanzae does. Compared to other Karlodinium species, this new one is slightly larger and were distinguished in the study by a particular form, structure and genetic information. Together with four other Karlodinium species, these Karlodinium azanzae cells came from Manila Bay.
Some species within the Karlodinium group have caused massive fish kills in different parts of the world. A "cousin" of Karlodinium called Takayama has actually been causing fish kills in the bangus (milkfish) farms in Bolinao and Anda, Pangasinan for the past few years. Since this group of phytoplankton are quite small compared to other phytoplankton, they're much harder to identify using typical sampling methods, but considering their significant impact, we do need to investigate them further.