The influence of temperature on the biochemical composition of eight species of marine phytoplankton was investigated. Thalassiosira pseudonana Hasle and Heim-dal, Phaeodactylum tricornutum Bohlin and, Pavlova lutheri Droop (three of eight species studied) had minimum values of carbon and nitrogen quotas at intermediate temperatures resulting in a broad U-shaped response in quotas over the temperature range of 10 to 25°C. Protein per cell also had minimum values at intermediate temperatures for six species. For T. pseudonana, P. tricornutum, and P. lutheri, patterns of variation in carbon, nitrogen, and protein quotas as a function of temperature were similar. Over all species, lipid and carbohydrate per cell showed no consistent trends with temperature.
Only chlorophyll a quotas and the carbon: chlorophyll a ratios (θ) showed consistent trends across all species. Chlorophyll a quotas were always lower at 10°C than at 25°C. Carbon: chlorophyll a ratios (θ) were always higher at 10°C than at 25°C. We suggest that although θ consistently increases at lower temperatures, the relationship between temperature and θ ranges from linear to exponential and is species specific. Accordingly, the interspecific variance in θ that results from species showing a range of possible responses to temperature increases as temperature declines and reaches a maximum at low temperatures. High photon flux densities appear to increase the potential interspecific variance in the carbon: chlorophyll a ratio and therefore exacerbate these trends.