Marked changes in diversity and relative activity of picoeukaryotes with depth in the world ocean

by Caterina R. Giner, Massimo C. Pernice, Vanessa Balagué, Carlos M. Duarte, Josep M. Gasol, Ramiro Logares, Ramon Massana
Research article Year: 2019 DOI:


Giner, C. R., Pernice, M. C., Balagué, V., Duarte, C. M., Gasol, J. M., Logares, R., & Massana, R. (2020). Marked changes in diversity and relative activity of picoeukaryotes with depth in the world ocean. The ISME journal14(2), 437-449.


Microbial eukaryotes are key components of the ocean plankton. Yet, our understanding of their community composition and activity in different water layers of the ocean is limited, particularly for picoeukaryotes (0.2–3 µm cell size). Here, we examined the picoeukaryotic communities inhabiting different vertical zones of the tropical and subtropical global ocean: surface, deep chlorophyll maximum, mesopelagic (including the deep scattering layer and oxygen minimum zones), and bathypelagic. Communities were analysed by high-tthroughput sequencing of the 18S rRNA gene (V4 region) as represented by DNA (community structure) and RNA (metabolism), followed by delineation of Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) at 99% similarity. We found a stratification of the picoeukaryotic communities along the water column, with assemblages corresponding to the sunlit and dark ocean. Specific taxonomic groups either increased (e.g., Chrysophyceae or Bicosoecida) or decreased (e.g., Dinoflagellata or MAST-3) in abundance with depth. We used the rRNA:rDNA ratio of each OTU as a proxy of metabolic activity. The highest relative activity was found in the mesopelagic layer for most taxonomic groups, and the lowest in the bathypelagic. Altogether, we characterize the change in community structure and metabolic activity of picoeukaryotes with depth in the global ocean, suggesting a hotspot of activity in the mesopelagic