Chapter on Protists in the 2nd edition of « The Marine Microbiome »

Marine Protists: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to their Role in the Marine Microbiome

Charles Bachy, Elisabeth Hehenberger, Yu-Chen Ling, David M. Needham, Jan Strauss, Susanne Wilken, Alexandra Z. Worden


Diversity within marine microbiomes spans the three domains of life: microbial eukaryotes (i.e., protists), bacteria, and archaea. Although protists were the first microbes observed by microscopy, it took the advent of molecular techniques to begin to resolve their complex and reticulate evolutionary history. Symbioses between microbial entities have been key in this journey, and such interactions continue to shape the ecology of marine microbiomes. Nowadays, photosynthetic marine protists are appreciated for their activities as primary producers, rivalling land plant contributions in the global carbon cycle. Predatory protists are known for consuming prokaryotes and other protists, with some combining metabolisms into a mixotrophic lifestyle. Still, much must be learned about specific interactions and lifestyles, especially for uncultured groups recognized just by environmental sequences. With respect to the fate of protists in food webs, there are many paths to consider. Despite being in early stages of identifying interactions, whether mutualistic or death-inducing infections by parasites and viruses, knowledge is advancing rapidly via methods for interrogation in nature without culturing. Here, we review marine protists, their evolutionary histories, diversity, ecological roles, and lifestyles in all layers of the ocean, with reference to how views have shifted over time through extensive investigation.