Cell Morphology

Size, shape, and diversity in phytoplankton

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Science  12 Feb 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6530, pp. 688-689
DOI: 10.1126/science.371.6530.688-a

Phytoplankton show a huge diversity of morphology, though more species have conservative shapes and fewer species have high surface area geometries.

CREDIT: RYABOV ET AL., ECOL. LETT. 10.1111/ELE.13680 (2021)

Phytoplankton, the unicellular photosynthetic organisms of the world's surface waters, display a bewildering variety of cell shapes and sizes. Ryabov et al. analyzed how shape relates to taxonomic diversity across a large sample of phytoplanktonic data from a range of oceanic regions. Classifying the sample into 38 geometric shapes, they found that the taxa with the greatest diversity of species tended to be those of compact shape and intermediate volume, whereas diversity decreased exponentially with increased cell elongation and cell surface area. These patterns will contribute to our understanding of the evolutionary and ecological forces shaping planktonic diversity and how accelerating changes in the marine environment might affect future patterns of planktonic community composition.

Ecol. Lett. 10.1111/ele.13680 (2021).

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