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AME 84:155-173 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01933

Composition and distribution patterns of eukaryotic microbial plankton in the ultra-oligotrophic Eastern Mediterranean Sea

Ioulia Santi1,2,3, Panagiotis Kasapidis3, Stella Psarra1, Georgia Assimakopoulou4, Alexandra Pavlidou4, Maria Protopapa4, Anastasia Tsiola1, Christina Zeri4, Paraskevi Pitta1,*

1Institute of Oceanography, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), PO Box 2214, Heraklion 71003, Greece
2Department of Biology, University of Crete, Voutes Campus, Heraklion 70013, Greece
3Institute of Marine Biology, Biotechnology & Aquaculture, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), PO Box 2214, Heraklion 71003, Greece
4Institute of Oceanography, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), 46.7 Km Athens-Sounio Av., Anavissos 19013, Greece
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine microbial eukaryotes play crucial roles in water-column ecosystems; however, there are regional gaps in the investigation of natural microbial eukaryote communities, and uncertainties concerning their distribution persevere. This study combined 18S rRNA metabarcoding, biomass measurements and statistical analyses of multiple environmental variables to examine the distribution of planktonic microbial eukaryotes at different sites and water layers in the ultra-oligotrophic Eastern Mediterranean Sea (Western Levantine Basin). Our results showed that microbial eukaryotic communities were structured by depth. In surface waters, different sites shared high percentages of molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTUs), but this was not the case for deep-sea communities (≥1000 m). Plankton biomass was significantly different among sites, implying that communities of a similar composition may not support the same activity or population size. The deep-sea communities showed high percentages of unassigned MOTUs, highlighting the sparsity of the existing information on deep-sea plankton eukaryotes. Water temperature and dissolved organic matter significantly affected community distribution. Micro-eukaryotic distribution was additionally affected by the nitrogen to phosphorus ratio and viral abundance, while nano- and pico-communities were affected by zooplankton. The present study explores microbial plankton eukaryotes in their natural oligotrophic environment and highlights that, even within restricted oceanic areas, marine plankton may follow distribution patterns that are largely controlled by environmental variables.


KEY WORDS: Marine plankton · Eukaryotic microorganisms · Microbial communities · Eastern Mediterranean Sea · Plankton biomass · Metabarcoding


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Cite this article as: Santi I, Kasapidis P, Psarra S, Assimakopoulou G and others (2020) Composition and distribution patterns of eukaryotic microbial plankton in the ultra-oligotrophic Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Aquat Microb Ecol 84:155-173. https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01933

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