Cell size has implications for the package effect in photon absorption as well as for metabolic scaling of metabolism. In this study, we have avoided species-related differences by using isolates of the marine planktonic diatom Coscinodiscus granii with cells of different sizes and grown at different light intensities to investigate their energy allocation strategies. To make full use of incident light, several fold variations in cellular chlorophyll a content were employed across cell size. This modulation of pigment-related light absorbance was deemed effective as similar light absorbing capacities were found in all treatments. Unexpected low values of O2 evolution rate at the highest irradiance level of 450 μmol photons m−2 s−1 were found in medium and large cells, regardless of more photons being absorbed under these conditions, suggesting the operation of alternative electron flows acting as electron sinks. The growth rate was generally larger at higher irradiance levels except for the large cells, in which growth slowed at 450 μmol photons m−2 s−1, suggesting that larger cells achieved a balance between growth and photoprotection by sacrificing growth rate when exposed to high light. Although the ratio of carbon demand to rates of uncatalysed CO2 diffusion to the cell surface reached around 20 in large cells grown under higher irradiance, the carbon fixation rate was not lowered, due to the presence of a highly effective carbon dioxide concentrating mechanism.
- Cell size
- Photochemical efficiency of Photosystem I