Mixotrophic protists display contrasted biogeographies in the global ocean

© G.Bounaud - C.Sardet / Soixanteseize - Fondation Tara Expéditions

Tara Oceans

Emile Faure, Fabrice Not, Anne-Sophie Benoiston, Karine Labadie, Lucie Bittner, Sakina-Dorothée Ayata

Published on January 14, 2019View online

Faure et al., “Mixotrophic protists display contrasted biogeographies in the global ocean”, The ISME Journal, Nature (2019)


Mixotrophy, or the ability to acquire carbon from both auto- and heterotrophy, is a widespread ecological trait in marine protists. Using a metabarcoding dataset of marine plankton from the global ocean, 318,054 mixotrophic metabarcodes represented by 89,951,866 sequences and belonging to 133 taxonomic lineages were identified and classified into four mixotrophic functional types: constitutive mixotrophs (CM), generalist non-constitutive mixotrophs (GNCM), endo-symbiotic specialist non-constitutive mixotrophs (eSNCM), and plastidic specialist non-constitutive mixotrophs (pSNCM). Mixotrophy appeared ubiquitous, and the distributions of the four mixotypes were analyzed to identify the abiotic factors shaping their biogeographies. Kleptoplastidic mixotrophs (GNCM and pSNCM) were detected in new zones compared to previous morphological studies. Constitutive and non-constitutive mixotrophs had similar ranges of distributions. Most lineages were evenly found in the samples, yet some of them displayed strongly contrasted distributions, both across and within mixotypes. Particularly divergent biogeographies were found within endo-symbiotic mixotrophs, depending on the ability to form colonies or the mode of symbiosis. We showed how metabarcoding can be used in a complementary way with previous morphological observations to study the biogeography of mixotrophic protists and to identify key drivers of their biogeography.