Thermal niche evolution of functional traits in a tropical marine phototroph

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Phycology, 2018, 54 (6), pp. 799 - 810
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
© 2018 Phycological Society of America Land-based plants and ocean-dwelling microbial phototrophs known as phytoplankton, are together responsible for almost all global primary production. Habitat warming associated with anthropogenic climate change has detrimentally impacted marine primary production, with the effects observed on regional and global scales. In contrast to slower-growing higher plants, there is considerable potential for phytoplankton to evolve rapidly with changing environmental conditions. The energetic constraints associated with adaptation in phytoplankton are not yet understood, but are central to forecasting how global biogeochemical cycles respond to contemporary ocean change. Here, we demonstrate a number of potential trade-offs associated with high-temperature adaptation in a tropical microbial eukaryote, Amphidinium massartii (dinoflagellate). Most notably, the population became high-temperature specialized (higher fitness within a narrower thermal envelope and higher thermal optimum), and had a greater nutrient requirement for carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. Evidently, the energetic constraints associated with living at elevated temperature alter competiveness along other environmental gradients. While high-temperature adaptation led to an irreversible change in biochemical composition (i.e., an increase in fatty acid saturation), the mechanisms underpinning thermal evolution in phytoplankton remain unclear, and will be crucial to understanding whether the trade-offs observed here are species-specific or are representative of the evolutionary constraints in all phytoplankton.
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