Seasonal genotype dynamics of a marine dinoflagellate: Pelagic populations are homogeneous and as diverse as benthic seed banks

Jacqueline Jerney, Karin Rengefors, Satoshi Nagai, Bernd Krock, Conny Sjöqvist, Sanna Suikkanen, Anke Kremp

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Genetic diversity is the basis for evolutionary adaptation and selection under changing environmental conditions. Phytoplankton populations are genotypically diverse, can become genetically differentiated within small spatiotemporal scales and many species form resting stages. Resting stage accumulations in sediments (seed banks) are expected to serve as reservoirs for genetic information, but so far their role in maintaining phytoplankton diversity and in evolution has remained unclear. In this study we used the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium ostenfeldii (Dinophyceae) as a model organism to investigate if (i) the benthic seed bank is more diverse than the pelagic population and (ii) the pelagic population is seasonally differentiated. Resting stages (benthic) and plankton (pelagic) samples were collected at a coastal bloom site in the Baltic Sea, followed by cell isolation and genotyping using microsatellite markers (MS) and restriction site associated DNA sequencing (RAD). High clonal diversity (98%–100%) combined with intermediate to low gene diversity (0.58–0.03, depending on the marker) was found. Surprisingly, the benthic and pelagic fractions of the population were equally diverse, and the pelagic fraction was temporally homogeneous, despite seasonal fluctuation of environmental selection pressures. The results of this study suggest that continuous benthic–pelagic coupling, combined with frequent sexual reproduction, as indicated by persistent linkage equilibrium, prevent the dominance of single clonal lineages in a dynamic environment. Both processes harmonize the pelagic with the benthic population and thus prevent seasonal population differentiation. At the same time, frequent sexual reproduction and benthic–pelagic coupling maintain high clonal diversity in both habitats.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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