The haplo-diplontic life cycle expands niche space of coccolithophores

Joost C De Vries*, Fanny M Monteiro, Glen Wheeler, Alex Poulton, Jelena Godrijan, Federica Cerino, Elisa Malinverno, Gerald Langer, Colin Brownlee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Coccolithophores are globally important marine calcifying phytoplankton that utilize a haplo-diplontic life cycle. The haplo-diplontic life cycle allows coccolithophores to divide in both life cycle phases, and has been proposed to allow coccolithophores to expand their niche space. To-date research has however largely overlooked the life cycle of coccolithophores, and has instead focused on the diploid life cycle phase. Through a synthesis of global scanning electron microscopy (SEM) coccolithophore abundance data (n = 2534), we show that the haploid life cycle phase contributes significantly to coccolithophore abundance, constituting ≈18 % of species abundance for which haploid-diploid pairs are defined. Using hypervolumes to quantify the niche space of coccolithophores, we furthermore show that the haploid and diploid life cycle phases inhabit contrasting niches, and that this allows coccolithophores to expand their niche space by ≈17 %. Our results highlight that future coccolithophore research should consider both life cycle stages, as omission of the haploid life cycle phase in current research limits our understanding of coccolithophore ecology.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Nov 2020

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