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Picoeukaryotes of the Micromonas genus: sentinels of a warming ocean


Photosynthetic picoeukaryotesx in the genus Micromonas show among the widest latitudinal distributions on Earth, experiencing large thermal gradients from poles to tropics. Micromonas comprises at least four different species often found in sympatry. While such ubiquity might suggest a wide thermal niche, the temperature response of the different strains is still unexplored, leaving many questions as for their ecological success over such diverse ecosystems. Using combined experiments and theory, we characterize the thermal response of eleven Micromonas strains belonging to four species. We demonstrate that the variety of specific responses to temperature in the Micromonas genus makes this environmental factor an ideal marker to describe its global distribution and diversity. We then propose a diversity model for the genus Micromonas, which proves to be representative of the whole phytoplankton diversity. This prominent primary producer is therefore a sentinel organism of phytoplankton diversity at the global scale. We use the diversity within Micromonas to anticipate the potential impact of global warming on oceanic phytoplankton. We develop a dynamic, adaptive model and run forecast simulations, exploring a range of adaptation time scales, to probe the likely responses to climate change. Results stress how biodiversity erosion depends on the ability of organisms to adapt rapidly to temperature increase.

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We thank members of the RCC for their help and work to maintain many phytoplankton strains in culture. We are also grateful to Mridul Thomas for providing his phytoplankton diversity data [3] and to Keith Paarporn for proofreading the text. Finally, we thank the reviewers and editor for their constructive comments on a previous version of this manuscript. This research was funded by the Inria Project Lab Algae in silico and by the ANR funding agency REVIREC (grant no. 12-BSV7-0006-01).

Author contributions

DD, ACB, OB, NS, AS, and SR designed the study. DD, ACB, NS, PG, FRJ carried out the experiments. DD and OB carried out the modeling and statistical analyses. DD provided the display items. AM carried out the phylogenetic and Tara Ocean V9 dataset analysis. CS and DM helped technically. DD, OB, and SR wrote the manuscript with contributions from NS, CS, and ACB.

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Correspondence to David Demory or Olivier Bernard or Sophie Rabouille.

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