Basin-scale distribution patterns of photosynthetic picoeukaryotes along an Atlantic Meridional Transect

Amy R. Kirkham, Ludwig E. Jardillier, Ana Tiganescu, John Pearman, Mikhail V. Zubkov, David J. Scanlan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Photosynthetic picoeukaryotes (PPEs) of a size <3μm play a crucial role in oceanic primary production. However, little is known of the structure of the PPE community over large spatial scales. Here, we investigated the distribution of various PPE classes along an Atlantic Meridional Transect sampled in boreal autumn 2004 that encompasses a range of ocean provinces (gyres, upwelling, temperate regions), using dot blot hybridization technology targeting plastid 16S rRNA gene amplicons. Two algal classes, Prymnesiophyceae and Chrysophyceae, dominated the PPE community throughout the Atlantic Ocean, over a range of water masses presenting different trophic profiles. However, these classes showed strongly complementary distributions with Chrysophyceae dominating northern temperate waters, the southern gyre and equatorial regions, while prymnesiophytes dominated the northern gyre. Phylogenetic analyses using both plastid and nuclear rRNA genes revealed a high diversity among members of both classes, including sequences contained in lineages with no close cultured counterpart. Other PPE classes were less prevalent along the transect, with members of the Cryptophyceae, Pelagophyceae and Eustigmatophyceae essentially restricted to specific regions. Multivariate statistical analyses revealed strong relationships between the distribution patterns of some of these latter PPE classes and temperature, light intensity and nutrient concentrations. Cryptophyceae, for example, were mostly found in the upwelling region and associated with higher nutrient concentrations. However, the key classes of Prymnesiophyceae and Chrysophyceae were not strongly influenced by the variables measured. Although there appeared to be a positive relationship between Chrysophyceae distribution and light intensity, the complementary distributions of these classes could not be explained by the variables recorded and this requires further explanation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)975-990
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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