AbstractEukaryotic phytoplankton exhibit an enormous species richness, displaying a range of phylogenetic, morphological and physiological diversity. Yet, until recently, very little was known about the diversity, genetic variation and evolutionary processes within species and populations. An approach to explore this diversity and to understand evolution of phytoplankton is to use population genetics as a conceptual framework and methodology. Here, we discuss the patterns, processes and questions that population genetic studies have revealed in eukaryotic phytoplankton. First, we describe the main biological processes generating genetic variation. We specifically discuss the importance of life-cycle complexity for genetic and phenotypic diversity and consider how such diversity can be maintained during blooms when rapid asexual proliferation dominates. Next, we explore how genetic diversity is partitioned over time and space, with a focus on the processes shaping this structure, in particular selection and genetic exchange. Our aim is also to show how population genetics can be used to make inferences about realized dispersal and sexual recombination, as these processes are so difficult to study directly. Finally, we highlight important open questions and suggest promising avenues for future studies that will be made possible by new sequencing technologies.
Journal of Plankton Research – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2017
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