Feeding diverse prey as an excellent strategy of mixotrophic dinoflagellates for global dominance

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Science Advances  08 Jan 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 2, eabe4214
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe4214


Microalgae fuel food webs and biogeochemical cycles of key elements in the ocean. What determines microalgal dominance in the ocean is a long-standing question. Red tide distribution data (spanning 1990 to 2019) show that mixotrophic dinoflagellates, capable of photosynthesis and predation together, were responsible for ~40% of the species forming red tides globally. Counterintuitively, the species with low or moderate growth rates but diverse prey including diatoms caused red tides globally. The ability of these dinoflagellates to trade off growth for prey diversity is another genetic factor critical to formation of red tides across diverse ocean conditions. This finding has profound implications for explaining the global dominance of particular microalgae, their key eco-evolutionary strategy, and prediction of harmful red tide outbreaks.

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