Protistan microbial observatory in the Cariaco Basin, Caribbean. II. Habitat specialization. Academic Article uri icon


  • This is the second paper in a series of three that investigates eukaryotic microbial diversity and taxon distribution in the Cariaco Basin, Venezuela, the ocean's largest anoxic marine basin. Here, we use phylogenetic information, multivariate community analyses and statistical richness predictions to test whether protists exhibit habitat specialization within defined geochemical layers of the water column. We also analyze spatio-temporal distributions of protists across two seasons and two geographic sites within the basin. Non-metric multidimensional scaling indicates that these two basin sites are inhabited by distinct protistan assemblages, an observation that is supported by the minimal overlap in observed and predicted richness of sampled sites. A comparison of parametric richness estimations indicates that protistan communities in closely spaced-but geochemically different-habitats are very dissimilar, and may share as few as 5% of total operational taxonomic units (OTUs). This is supported by a canonical correspondence analysis, indicating that the empirically observed OTUs are organized along opposing gradients in oxidants and reductants. Our phylogenetic analyses identify many new clades at species to class levels, some of which appear restricted to specific layers of the water column and have a significantly nonrandom distribution. These findings suggest many pelagic protists are restricted to specific habitats, and likely diversify, at least in part due to separation by geochemical barriers.

publication date

  • August 2011