• Dinoflagellates;
  • hypoxia;
  • MALV I and II;
  • picoeukaryotes;
  • rDNA environmental sequences


Coastal marine hypoxic, or low-oxygen, episodes are an increasing worldwide phenomenon, but its effect on the microbial community is virtually unknown by far. In this study, the community structure and phylogeny of picoeukaryotes in the Gulf of Mexico, which are exposed to severe hypoxia in these areas was explored through a clone library approach. Both oxic surface waters and suboxic bottom waters were collected in August 2010 from three representative stations on the inner Louisiana shelf near the Atchafalaya and Mississippi River plumes. The bottom waters of the two more western stations were much more hypoxic in comparison to those of the station closest to the Mississippi River plume, which were only moderately hypoxic. A phylogenetic analysis of a total 175 sequences, generated from six 18S rDNA clone libraries, demonstrated a clear dominance of parasitic dinoflagellates from Marine alveolate clades I and II in all hypoxic waters as well as in the surface layer at the more western station closest to the Atchafalaya River plume. Species diversity was significantly higher at the most hypoxic sites, and many novel species were present among the dinoflagellate and stramenopile clades. We concluded that hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico causes a significant shift in picoeukaryote communities, and that hypoxia may cause a shift in microbial food webs from grazing to parasitism.