Diversity and dynamics of a widespread bloom of the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium fundyense
Erdner, Deana L.
Richlen, Mindy L.
McCauley, Linda A. R.
Anderson, Donald M.
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Historically, cosmopolitan phytoplankton species were presumed to represent largely unstructured populations. However, the recent development of molecular tools to examine genetic diversity have revealed differences in phytoplankton taxa across geographic scales and provided insight into the physiology and ecology of blooms. Here we describe the genetic analysis of an extensive bloom of the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium fundyense that occurred in the Gulf of Maine in 2005. This bloom was notable for its intensity and duration, covering hundreds of kilometers and persisting for almost two months. Genotypic analyses based on microsatellite marker data indicate that the open waters of the northeastern U.S. harbor a single regional population of A. fundyense comprising two genetically distinct sub-populations. These subpopulations were characteristic of early- and late-bloom samples and were derived from the northern and southern areas of the bloom, respectively. The temporal changes observed during this study provide clear evidence of succession during a continuous bloom and show that selection can act on the timescale of weeks to significantly alter the representation of genotypes within a population. The effects of selection on population composition and turnover would be magnified if sexual reproduction were likewise influenced by environmental conditions. We hypothesize that the combined effects of differential growth and reproduction rates serves to reduce gene flow between the sub-populations, reinforcing population structure while maintaining the diversity of the overall regional population.
© The Author(s), 2011. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in PLoS One 6 (2011): e22965, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022965.
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