Cladocerans use their thoracic legs to produce a constant current of water that allows them to filter food particles. The food items are collected in a groove at the base of their legs and mixed with mucus to form a bolus or mass that is moved forward towards the mouth. Because most cladocerans are filter feeders, they eat organic detritus of all kinds, including algae, protozoans, and bacteria. Although cladocerans cannot select individual food items, they can decide whether to accept or reject the mass of food collected in their mucus; they may reject the bolus if it contains toxic algae or other undesirable particles. A few genera of cladocerans are predatory and capable of seizing their prey, which consists primarily of other zooplankton. Because of their small size, cladocerans have a wide variety of predators, including fishes, amphibians, birds, predaceous zooplankton, and insects.
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