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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Apr;72(4):2496-506.

Abundance and distribution of Ostreococcus sp. in the San Pedro Channel, California, as revealed by quantitative PCR.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0371, USA.


Ostreococcus is a genus of widely distributed marine phytoplankton which are picoplanktonic in size (<2 mum) and capable of rapid growth. Although Ostreococcus has been detected around the world, little quantitative information exists on its contribution to planktonic communities. We designed and implemented a genus-specific TaqMan-based quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay to investigate the dynamics and ecology of Ostreococcus at the USC Microbial Observatory (eastern North Pacific). Samples were collected from 5 m and the deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM) between September 2000 and August 2002. Ostreococcus abundance at 5 m was generally <5.0 x 10(3) cells ml(-1), with a maximum of 8.2 x 10(4) cells ml(-1). Ostreococcus abundance was typically higher at the DCM, with a maximum of 3.2 x 10(5) cells ml(-1). The vertical distribution of Ostreococcus was examined in March 2005 and compared to the distribution of phototrophic picoeukaryotes (PPE) measured by flow cytometry. The largest contribution to PPE abundance by Ostreococcus was approximately 70% and occurred at 30 m, near the DCM. Despite its relatively low abundance, the depth-integrated standing stock of Ostreococcus in March 2005 was approximately 30 mg C m(-2). Our work provides a new technique for quantifying the abundance of Ostreococcus and demonstrates the seasonal dynamics of this genus and its contribution to picoeukaryote biomass at our coastal sampling station.

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