Intense blooms of Phaeocystis globosa in the South China Sea are caused by a unique “giant-colony” ecotype

TitleIntense blooms of Phaeocystis globosa in the South China Sea are caused by a unique “giant-colony” ecotype
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsZhang Q-C, Liu C, Wang J-X, Kong F-Z, Niu Z, Xiang L, Yu R-C
JournalHarmful Algae
Keywordsecotype, genetic diversity, Giant colony, Marker pigment, RCC1736, RCC2055, RCC678, RCC736

The haptophyte Phaeocystis globosa, an important causative agent of harmful algal blooms globally, exhibits varying morphological and physiological features and high genetic diversity, yet the relationship among these has never been elucidated. In this study, colony sizes and pigment profiles of 19 P. globosa isolates from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans were determined. Genetic divergence of these strains was analyzed using the chloroplast rbcS-rpl27 intergenic spacer, a novel high-resolution molecular marker. Strains could be divided into four genetic clades based on these sequences, or two groups based on colony size and the identity of diagnostic pigments (19'-hexanoyloxyfucoxanthin, hex-fuco, and 19'-butanoyloxyfucoxanthin, but-fuco). Three strains from the South China Sea (SCS), all belonging to the same genetic clade, have unique biological features in forming giant colonies and possessing but-fuco as their diagnostic pigment. Based on these findings, we propose that these SCS strains should be a unique “giant-colony” ecotype of P. globosa. During the period 2016-2021, more than 1000 rbcS-rpl27 sequences were obtained from 16 P. globosa colony samples and 18 phytoplankton samples containing solitary P. globosa cells in the SCS. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that >95% of the sequences from P. globosa colonies in the SCS were comprised of the “giant-colony” ecotype, whereas the genetic diversity of solitary cells was much higher. Results demonstrated that intense blooms of P. globosa featuring giant colonies in the SCS were mainly caused by this giant-colony P. globosa ecotype.