Research ArticleOCEANOGRAPHY

Dimorphism in cryptophytes—The case of Teleaulax amphioxeia/Plagioselmis prolonga and its ecological implications

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Science Advances  11 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 37, eabb1611
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb1611


Growing evidence suggests that sexual reproduction might be common in unicellular organisms, but observations are sparse. Limited knowledge of sexual reproduction constrains understanding of protist ecology. Although Teleaulax amphioxeia and Plagioselmis prolonga are common marine cryptophytes worldwide, and are also important plastid donors for some kleptoplastic ciliates and dinoflagellates, the ecology and development of these protists are poorly known. We demonstrate that P. prolonga is the haploid form of the diploid T. amphioxeia and describe the seasonal dynamics of these two life stages. The diploid T. amphioxeia dominates during periods of high dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and low irradiance, temperature, and grazing (winter and early spring), whereas the haploid P. prolonga becomes more abundant during the summer, when DIN is low and irradiance, temperature, and grazing are high. Dimorphic sexual life cycles might explain the success of this species by fostering high genetic diversity and enabling endurance in adverse conditions.

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