Ostreococcus is a cosmopolitan marine genus of phytoplankton found in mesotrophic and oligotrophic waters, and the smallest free-living eukaryotes known to date, with a cell diameter close to 1 μm. Ostreococcus has been extensively studied as a model system to investigate viral-host dynamics in culture, yet the impact of viruses in naturally occurring populations is largely unknown. Here, we used Virus Fluorescence in situ Hybridization (VirusFISH) to visualize and quantify viral-host dynamics in natural populations of Ostreococcus during a seasonal cycle in the central Cantabrian Sea (Southern Bay of Biscay). Ostreococcus were predominantly found during summer and autumn at surface and 50 m depth, in coastal, mid-shelf and shelf waters, representing up to 21% of the picoeukaryotic communities. Viral infection was only detected in surface waters, and its impact was variable but highest from May to July and November to December, when up to half of the population was infected. Metatranscriptomic data available from the mid-shelf station unveiled that the Ostreococcus population was dominated by the species O. lucimarinus. This work represents a proof of concept that the VirusFISH technique can be used to quantify the impact of viruses on targeted populations of key microbes from complex natural communities. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics