Factors controlling the abundance and size distribution of the phototrophic ciliate Myrionecta rubra in open waters of the North Atlantic.

D.J.S. Montagnes, J. Allen, L. Brown, C. Bulit, C. Diaz-Avalos, S. Fielding, Michael Heath, N.P. Holliday, J. Rasmussen, R. Sanders, J.J. Waniek, D. Wilson

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Myrionecta rubra, a ubiquitous planktonic ciliate, has received much attention due to its wide distribution, occurrence as a red tide organism, and unusual cryptophyte endosymbiont. Although well studied in coastal waters, M. rubra is poorly examined in the open ocean. In the Irminger Basin, North Atlantic, the abundance of M. rubra was 0-5 cells/ml, which is low compared with that found in coastal areas. Distinct patchiness (100 km) was revealed by geostatistical analysis. Multiple regression indicated there was little relationship between M. rubra abundance and a number of environmental factors, with the exception of temperature and phytoplankton biomass, which influenced abundance in the spring. We also improve on studies that indicate distinct size classes of M. rubra; we statistically recognise four significantly distinct width classes (5-16, 12-23, 18-27, 21-33 microm), which decrease in abundance with increasing size. A multinomial logistic regression revealed the main variable correlated with this size distribution was ambient nitrate concentration. Finally, we propose a hypothesis for the distribution of sizes, involving nutrients, feeding, and dividing of the endosymbiont.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-65
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Eukaryotic Microbiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2008


  • Cell size
  • protist distribution
  • plankton
  • microzooplankton
  • Mesodinium rubrum

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