What is it about?
Sexual reproduction in the plankton is facing several difficulties. Planktonic organisms are free-floating without any means of active propulsion and often with low abundances. It is therefore difficult for reproductive cells to meet. We develop a numerical model that helps us to understand, under which scenarios sexual reproduction in the plankton is possible and what is its role in comparison with asexual reproduction.
Photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash
Why is it important?
The plankton plays a major role in oceanic primary production. Sexual reproduction allows the purging of detrimental genes and the establishment of new, beneficial mutations in the future generations. It is therefore an important parameter that allows the plankton to adapt to past and future environmental change. Understanding the prerequisites and dominance of sexual reproduction is important to estimate the potential of the plankton to survive future climate change undisturbed.
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This page is a summary of: Reproduction dynamics of planktonic microbial eukaryotes in the open ocean, Journal of The Royal Society Interface, February 2022, Royal Society Publishing, DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2021.0860.
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Modelled gamete fusion numbers in planktonic Foraminifera
Reproductive biology is integral to evolutionary processes in organisms, yet gaining detailed insights poses major challenges. Planktonic Foraminifera are globally distributed marine protists and important contributors to the global carbon cycle with distinct biodiversity patterns. Knowledge on their life cycle remains incomplete, yet the production of flagellated gametes implies a sexual mode of reproduction. In the open ocean, this would rely on sufficient gamete encounters to maintain viable populations, which is problematic for protist plankton with low population densities. We applied dynamic modelling with parameters based on prior observations to verify if random gamete encounters are sufficient for maintaining viable populations. Temporal and spatial synchronization of gamete release seems inevitable to that end, and planktonic Foraminifera seemingly optimized their individual reproductive success at the expense of gene flow. This may explain their high degree of diversity and contributes to our understanding of plankton ecology and evolution.
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