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High Variability in Cellular Stoichiometry of Carbon, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus Within Classes of Marine Eukaryotic Phytoplankton Under Sufficient Nutrient Conditions


Current hypotheses suggest that cellular elemental stoichiometry of marine eukaryotic phytoplankton such as the ratios of cellular carbon:nitrogen:phosphorus (C:N:P) vary between phylogenetic groups. To investigate how phylogenetic structure, cell volume, growth rate, and temperature interact to affect the cellular elemental stoichiometry of marine eukaryotic phytoplankton, we examined the C:N:P composition in 30 isolates across 7 classes of marine phytoplankton that were grown with a sufficient supply of nutrients and nitrate as the nitrogen source. The isolates covered a wide range in cell volume (5 orders of magnitude), growth rate (<0.01-0.9 d-1), and habitat temperature (2-24°C). Our analysis indicates that C:N:P is highly variable, with statistical model residuals accounting for over half of the total variance and no relationship between phylogeny and elemental stoichiometry. Furthermore, our data indicated that variability in C:P, N:P, and C:N within Bacillariophyceae (diatoms) was as high as that among all of the isolates that we examined. In addition, a linear statistical model identified a positive relationship between diatom cell volume and C:P and N:P. Among all of the isolates that we examined, the statistical model identified temperature as a significant factor, consistent with the temperature-dependent translation efficiency model, but temperature only explained 5% of the total statistical model variance. While some of our results support data from previous field studies, the high variability of elemental ratios within Bacillariophyceae contradicts previous work that suggests that this cosmopolitan group of microalgae has consistently low C:P and N:P ratios in comparison with other groups.

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