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Keywords:

  • bloom dynamics;
  • Ostreococcus ;
  • picoalgae;
  • picoplankton

The smallest known eukaryote, Ostreococcus tauri Courties et Chrétiennot-Dinet, was first reported as the dominant picoplankter in a French lagoon known for its diverse phytoplankton community and high oyster productivity. Long-term seasonal blooms of this picoeukaryote were observed in association with stable plankton communities. On 5 June 2001, a distinctive monotypic picoplankton bloom was detected by flow cytometry as part of an ongoing study of “brown tide” (Aureococcus anophagefferens) bloom initiation in Long Island bays. The bloom reached a concentration of 5 × 105 cells·mL−1 in West Neck Bay and lasted less than 2 weeks. Epifluorescence microscopy and TEM indicated that the bloom organism was an Ostreococcus-like picoalga, the first ever observed in a Long Island bay. Many cells of this alga contained numerous virus-like particles. The Ostreococcus-like picoalga, which resembles O. tauri, was rare in samples collected the following week. Instead, a substantial increase in the Synechococcus population was observed. Such rapid population changes have not previously been reported for Ostreococcus. Viral lysis and grazing by heterotrophic nanoflagellates may have contributed to the rapid decline of the Ostreococcus-like cells in West Neck Bay.