Cyclic evolution of phytoplankton forced by changes in tropical seasonality

Type Article
Date 2022-01
Language English
Author(s) Beaufort Luc1, Bolton Clara T1, Sarr Anta-Clarisse1, Sucheras-Marx Baptiste1, Rosenthal Yair2, Donnadieu Yannick1, Barbarin Nicholas1, Bova Samantha2, Cornuault Pauline1, Gally Yves1, Gray Emmeline1, Mazur Jean-Charles1, Tetard Martin1
Affiliation(s) 1 : Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, IRD, INRAE, Coll France, CEREGE, Aix-en-Provence, France
2 : Rutgers University, Piscataway, USA
Source Nature (0028-0836) (Nature), 2022-01 , Vol. 601 , N. 7891 , P. 79-84
DOI 10.1038/s41586-021-04195-7
WOS© Times Cited 18

Although the role of Earth’s orbital variations in driving global climate cycles has long been recognized, their effect on evolution is hitherto unknown. The fossil remains of coccolithophores, a key calcifying phytoplankton group, enable a detailed assessment of the effect of cyclic orbital-scale climate changes on evolution because of their abundance in marine sediments and the preservation of their morphological adaptation to the changing environment1,2. Evolutionary genetic analyses have linked broad changes in Pleistocene fossil coccolith morphology to species radiation events3. Here, using high-resolution coccolith data, we show that during the last 2.8 million years the morphological evolution of coccolithophores was forced by Earth’s orbital eccentricity with rhythms of around 100,000 years and 405,000 years—a distinct spectral signature to that of coeval global climate cycles4. Simulations with an Earth System Model5 coupled with an ocean biogeochemical model6 show a strong eccentricity modulation of the seasonal cycle, which we suggest directly affects the diversity of ecological niches that occur over the annual cycle in the tropical ocean. Reduced seasonality in surface ocean conditions favours species with mid-size coccoliths, increasing coccolith carbonate export and burial; whereas enhanced seasonality favours a larger range of coccolith sizes and reduced carbonate export. We posit that eccentricity pacing of phytoplankton evolution contributed to the strong 405,000-year cyclicity that is seen in global carbon cycle records.

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Beaufort Luc, Bolton Clara T, Sarr Anta-Clarisse, Sucheras-Marx Baptiste, Rosenthal Yair, Donnadieu Yannick, Barbarin Nicholas, Bova Samantha, Cornuault Pauline, Gally Yves, Gray Emmeline, Mazur Jean-Charles, Tetard Martin (2022). Cyclic evolution of phytoplankton forced by changes in tropical seasonality. Nature, 601(7891), 79-84. Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :