The role of intraspecific variation in the ecological and evolutionary success of diatoms in changing environments

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Intraspecific variation in diatoms has been shown to play a key role in species’ responses to several important environmental factors such as light, salinity, temperature and nutrients. Furthermore, modelling efforts indicate that this variation within species extends bloom periods, and likely provides sufficient variability in competitive interactions between species under hydrographically variable conditions. The intraspecific variation most likely correspondsto optimal fitness in temporary microhabitats and may help to explain the paradox of the plankton. Here, we examine the implications of intraspecific variation for the ecology and success of diatoms in general and emphasize the potential implications for our understanding of carbon metabolism in these important organisms. Additionally, data from palaeoecological studies have the potential for evaluating genetic variation through past climate changes, going thousands of years back in time. We suggest pathways for future research including the adoption of multiple strains of individual species into studies of diatom carbon metabolism, to refine our understanding of the variation within and between species, and the inclusion of experimental evolution as a tool for understanding potential evolutionary responses of diatom carbon metabolism to climate change.

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Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences