Sinking rates, orientation, and behavior of pennate diatoms

Phytoplankton cells are now recognized as dynamic entities rather than as passive and isolated particles because they can actively modulate impacts of selection factors (nutrients, light, turbidity, and mixing) through a wide range of adaptations. Cell shape and/or chain length modulation is one of these processes but has predominantly been studied as an adaptation or an acclimatation to a specific growth limitation (light, nutrients, predation, etc.). In this study we have demonstrated that cell shape and size may have greater roles than previously known in phytoplankton ecology and species adaptation by permitting cell‐to‐cell signaling and more complex ecological processes that result from it. By exploring microscale biophysical interactions that lead to specific cell reorientation processes, we demonstrated that cell geometry not only modulates cell sinking rates but can also provide fast sensor responses to the cells' environment. Although gyrotaxis has been described in detail for motile phytoplankton cells, our findings illustrate that the reorientation process described here can occur even in non‐motile cells within their natural environment. An additional consistent behavior was also recently described for a diatom species (Pseudo‐nitzschia delicatessima), and with this study, we extend this observation to Pseudo‐nitzschia pungens and Pseudo‐nitzschia fraudulenta. Our observations emphasize the generality of this process, which adds a new level of complexity to our understanding of cellular interactions and their network of sensors.


behavior, diatom, interaction, microscale, pennate, Pseudo-nitzschia, settlement

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Sourisseau Marc, Font‐muñoz J., Bellouche S., Fauvarque Olivier, Rouxel Justin, Tardivel Morgan, Sauvey A. (2024). Sinking rates, orientation, and behavior of pennate diatoms. Journal of Phycology. INPRESS.,

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