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Observations on colony formation by the cosmopolitan phytoplankton genus Phaeocystis
Verity, P.G.; Medlin, L.K. (2003). Observations on colony formation by the cosmopolitan phytoplankton genus Phaeocystis. J. Mar. Syst. 43(3-4): 153-164.
In: Journal of Marine Systems. Elsevier: Tokyo; Oxford; New York; Amsterdam. ISSN 0924-7963, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Colonization; Grazing; Life cycle; Phytoplankton; Sexual reproduction; Phaeocystis Lagerheim, 1893 [WoRMS]; Marine

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  • Verity, P.G.
  • Medlin, L.K., more

    Few marine phytoplankton have heteromorphic life cycles and also often dominate the ecosystems in which they occur. The class Prymnesiophyceae contains a notable exception: the genus Phaeocystis includes three species that form gelatinous colonies but also occur within their ranges as solitary cells. Phaeocystis antarctica and P. pouchetii are exclusively high latitude taxa, and are notable for regionally tremendous blooms of the colony stage. P. globosa occurs circumglobally, yet its colony blooms primarily are confined to colder waters within its range. Three additional species are warm water forms that have been reported only as solitary cells or loose aggregations that bear little resemblance to the organized colonies of the other taxa. Interpretation of existing data indicates that resource availability (light, temperature and nutrients) by itself is not sufficient to explain this distinction between cold-water colony-forming taxa and warm water solitary cell taxa, nor why colony development in P. globosa is essentially a spatially restricted phenomenon within a much broader geographic range. Colony development by P. globosa in situ has been observed at temperatures ≥20 °C, but only rarely and generally under conditions of seasonally or anthropogenically elevated nutrient supply. Data presented here demonstrate colony development at 20–22 °C in natural plankton communities from oligotrophic waters that were pre-screened through 63 μm mesh (i.e. lacking mesozooplankton and large microzooplankton), but not in unscreened communities containing microzooplankton and >63 μm zooplankton. Reduction of colony proliferation at higher temperatures by mesozooplankton grazing remains as an intriguing possibility that is consistent with available evidence to help explain differences in latitudinal extent of in situ colony development. These data are interpreted within a theoretical framework regarding the potential advantages and disadvantages of the two life cycle stages.

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