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.

Spatiotemporal Variations in Antarctic Protistan Communities Highlight Phytoplankton Diversity and Seasonal Dominance by a Novel Cryptophyte Lineage

Maria Hamilton, Martina Mascioni, Elisabeth Hehenberger, Charles Bachy, CharmaineYung, Maria Vernet, and Alexandra Z. Worden


The Andvord fjord in the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is known for its productivity and abundant megafauna. Nevertheless, seasonal patterns of the molecular diversity and abundance of protistan community members underpinning WAP productivity remain poorly resolved. We performed spring and fall expeditions pursuing protistan diversity, abundance of photosynthetic taxa, and the connection to changing conditions. 18S rRNA amplicon sequence variant (ASV) profiles revealed diverse predatory protists spanning multiple eukaryotic supergroups, alongside enigmatic heterotrophs like the Picozoa. Among photosynthetic protists, cryptophyte contributions were notable. Analysis of plastid-derived 16S rRNA ASVs supported 18S ASV results, including a dichotomy between cryptophytes and diatom contributions previously reported in other Antarctic regions. We demonstrate that stramenopile and cryptophyte community structures have distinct attributes. Photosynthetic stramenopiles exhibit high diversity, with the polar diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus, unidentified Chaetoceros species, and others being prominent. Conversely, ASV analyses followed by environmental full-length rRNA gene sequencing, electron microscopy, and flow cytometry revealed that a novel alga dominates the cryptophytes. Phylogenetic analyses established that TPG clade VII, as named here, is evolutionarily distinct from cultivated cryptophyte lineages. Additionally, cryptophyte cell abundance correlated with increased water temperature. Analyses of global data sets showed that clade VII dominates cryptophyte ASVs at Southern Ocean sites and appears to be endemic, whereas in the Arctic and elsewhere, Teleaulax amphioxeia and Plagioselmis prolonga dominate, although both were undetected in Antarctic waters. Collectively, our studies provide baseline data against which future change can be assessed, identify different diversification patterns between stramenopiles and cryptophytes, and highlight an evolutionarily distinct cryptophyte clade that thrives under conditions enhanced by warming.
Full article: PDFLink