||May 28, 2015
First insights from the Tara Oceans global plankton sampling expedition
Ocean plankton are critical players in key planetary scale processes:
they produce half our oxygen, act as carbon sinks, influence our
weather, and serve as the base of the ocean food web that sustains the
larger fish and marine mammals. In spite of this importance, the
diversity and functioning of the marine microbial ecosystem are much
less understood than their terrestrial counterparts.
An international interdisciplinary team of scientists analyzed plankton
samples collected during a three-year pan-oceanic expedition on board
the schooner Tara(1). In this talk, I will present an overview of the
first global results to be published by the Tara Oceans Consortium(2).
The analyses present high resolution diversity of a wide range of
planktonic organisms (viruses, prokaryotes and eukaryotes) and explore
their biotic and abiotic interactions. Findings include higher than
anticipated unicellular eukaryotes diversity amongst the billion
sequenced barcodes, large contributions of parasitism to the biotic
interaction network, and subtle impacts of the Agulhas ocean circulation
choke point on plankton dispersal. These public data, including a 40
million non-redundant marine gene catalog which are mostly novel,
provide a rich resource for further studies and serve as a baseline for
assessing climate change on oceanic ecosystems.
(1) E. Karsenti et al. (2011) A holistic approach to marine eco-systems
biology. PLoS Biol 9(10): e1001177.
(2) A special issue presenting five Tara Oceans papers is planned for
publication in late May