Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2013 Oct 24;8(10):e77349. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077349. eCollection 2013.

Grazers and phytoplankton growth in the oceans: an experimental and evolutionary perspective.

Author information

Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e dell'Ambiente, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy.


The taxonomic composition of phytoplankton responsible for primary production on continental shelves has changed episodically through Earth history. Geological correlations suggest that major changes in phytoplankton composition correspond in time to changes in grazing and seawater chemistry. Testing hypotheses that arise from these correlations requires experimentation, and so we carried out a series of experiments in which selected phytoplankton species were grown in treatments that differed with respect to the presence or absence of grazers as well as seawater chemistry. Both protistan (Euplotes sp.) and microarthropod (Acartia tonsa) grazers changed the growth dynamics and biochemical composition of the green alga Tetraselmis suecica, the diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii, and the cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp., increasing the specific growth rate and palatability of the eukaryotic algae, while decreasing or leaving unchanged both parameters in the cyanobacteria. Synechococcus (especially) and Thalassiosira produced toxins effective against the copepod, but ciliate growth was unaffected. Acartia induced a 4-6 fold increase of Si cell quota in the diatom, but Euplotes had no similar effect. The differential growth responses of the eukaryotic algae and cyanobacteria to ciliate grazing may help to explain the apparently coeval radiation of eukaryophagic protists and rise of eukaryotes to ecological prominence as primary producers in Neoproterozoic oceans. The experimental results suggest that phytoplankton responses to the later radiation of microarthropod grazers were clade-specific, and included changes in growth dynamics, toxin synthesis, encystment, and (in diatoms) enhanced Si uptake.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center