Evolution of Phytoplankton in Relation to Their Physiological Traits

John Raven, John Beardall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Defining the physiological traits that characterise phytoplankton involves comparison with related organisms in benthic habitats. Comparison of survival time in darkness under natural conditions requires more information. Gas vesicles and flagella as mechanisms of upward movement relative to surrounding water, allowing periodic vertical migration, are not confined to plankton, although buoyancy changes related to compositional changes of a large central vacuole may be restricted to plankton. Benthic microalgae have the same range of photosynthetic pigments as phytoplankton; it is not clear if there are differences in the rate of regulation and acclimation of photosynthetic machinery to variations in irradiance for phytoplankton and for microphytobenthos. There are inadequate data to determine if responses to variations in frequency or magnitude of changes in the supply of inorganic carbon, nitrogen or phosphorus differ between phytoplankton and benthic microalgae. Phagophotomixotrophy and osmophotomixotrophy occur in both phytoplankton and benthic microalgae. Further progress in identifying physiological traits specific to phytoplankton requires more experimentation on benthic microalgae that are closely related to planktonic microalgae, with attention to whether the benthic algae examined have, as far as can be determined, never been planktonic during their evolution or are derived from planktonic ancestors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number194
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Buoyancy
  • Carbon concentrating mechanisms
  • Dark survival
  • Flagella
  • Gas vesicles
  • Nutrients
  • Photosynthetic pigments
  • Sinking
  • Vitamins

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