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1.  Phytoplankton distribution patterns in the northwestern Sargasso Sea revealed by small subunit rRNA genes from plastids 
The ISME Journal  2011;6(3):481-492.
Phytoplankton species vary in their physiological properties, and are expected to respond differently to seasonal changes in water column conditions. To assess these varying distribution patterns, we used 412 samples collected monthly over 12 years (1991–2004) at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-Series Study site, located in the northwestern Sargasso Sea. We measured plastid 16S ribosomal RNA gene abundances with a terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism approach and identified distribution patterns for members of the Prymnesiophyceae, Pelagophyceae, Chrysophyceae, Cryptophyceae, Bacillariophyceae and Prasinophyceae. The analysis revealed dynamic bloom patterns by these phytoplankton taxa that begin early in the year, when the mixed layer is deep. Previously, unreported open-ocean prasinophyte blooms dominated the plastid gene signal during convective mixing events. Quantitative PCR confirmed the blooms and transitions of Bathycoccus, Micromonas and Ostreococcus populations. In contrast, taxa belonging to the pelagophytes and chrysophytes, as well as cryptophytes, reached annual peaks during mixed layer shoaling, while Bacillariophyceae (diatoms) were observed only episodically in the 12-year record. Prymnesiophytes dominated the integrated plastid gene signal. They were abundant throughout the water column before mixing events, but persisted in the deep chlorophyll maximum during stratified conditions. Various models have been used to describe mechanisms that drive vernal phytoplankton blooms in temperate seas. The range of taxon-specific bloom patterns observed here indicates that different ‘spring bloom' models can aptly describe the behavior of different phytoplankton taxa at a single geographical location. These findings provide insight into the subdivision of niche space by phytoplankton and may lead to improved predictions of phytoplankton responses to changes in ocean conditions.
doi:10.1038/ismej.2011.117
PMCID: PMC3280133  PMID: 21955994
phytoplankton; marine; T-RFLP; plastid; BATS
2.  Global distribution patterns of distinct clades of the photosynthetic picoeukaryote Ostreococcus 
The ISME Journal  2011;5(7):1095-1107.
Ostreococcus is a marine picophytoeukaryote for which culture studies indicate there are ‘high-light' and ‘low-light' adapted ecotypes. Representatives of these ecotypes fall within two to three 18S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) clades for the former and one for the latter. However, clade distributions and relationships to this form of niche partitioning are unknown in nature. We developed two quantitative PCR primer-probe sets and enumerated the proposed ecotypes in the Pacific Ocean as well as the subtropical and tropical North Atlantic. Statistical differences in factors such as salinity, temperature and NO3 indicated the ecophysiological parameters behind clade distributions are more complex than irradiance alone. Clade OII, containing the putatively low-light adapted strains, was detected at warm oligotrophic sites. In contrast, Clade OI, containing high-light adapted strains, was present in cooler mesotrophic and coastal waters. Maximal OI abundance (19 555±37 18S rDNA copies per ml) was detected in mesotrophic waters at 40 m depth, approaching the nutricline. OII was often more abundant at the deep chlorophyll maximum, when nutrient concentrations were significantly higher than at the surface (stratified euphotic zone waters). However, in mixed euphotic-zone water columns, relatively high numbers (for example, 891±107 18S rDNA copies per ml, Sargasso Sea, springtime) were detected at the surface. Both Clades OI and OII were found at multiple euphotic zone depths, but co-occurrence at the same geographical location appeared rare and was detected only in continental slope waters. In situ growth rate estimates using these primer-probes and better comprehension of physiology will enhance ecological understanding of Ostreococcus Clades OII and OI which appear to be oceanic and coastal clades, respectively.
doi:10.1038/ismej.2010.209
PMCID: PMC3146286  PMID: 21289652
picoeukaryotes; Ostreococcus; quantitative PCR; mamiellales; prasinophytes; niche differentiation

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