Seasonal effects on the population structure of Prochlorococcus in the North Pacific Ocean

Benjamin Carter Calfee1, Zackary I Johnson2, Steven Wilhelm1 and Erik R Zinser1, (1)University of Tennessee, Microbiology, Knoxville, TN, United States, (2)Duke University, Beaufort, NC, United States
Prochlorococcus is one of the most abundant marine phytoplankton and is responsible for a large portion of oceanic primary production. Basin-scale meridional transects and time series studies at fixed stations have established that the Prochlorococcus population in the surface mixed layer is partitioned with respect to temperature, with the eMIT9312 ecotype dominating the warmer, lower latitudes, and eMED4 dominating the colder, higher latitudes. Spatial and temporal resolution of this relationship is however not well characterized particularly in the higher latitudes where the transitions of ecotypic dominance occur. To improve our understanding of Prochlorococcus dynamics in these high latitudes, we performed a pair of research expeditions spanning the Prochlorococcus habitat range north of Hawaii. Winter and summer cruises along a similar transect allowed for assessment of seasonal succession in this region. For the winter transect, trends in ecotype abundances as a function of latitude were consistent with those found in prior studies. Surprisingly, ecotype abundances of the summer transect deviated from these trends, and indicate that seasonal progression in these high latitude waters is not simply a function of temperature dictating relative ecotype abundances. Potential reasons for this observation will be discussed.