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Ecological and evolutionary significance of size in planktic protists

English title Ecological and evolutionary significance of size in planktic protists
Applicant Thierstein Hans R.
Number 109639
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Geologisches Institut ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Palaeontology
Start/End 01.10.2005 - 30.09.2007
Approved amount 371'089.00
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Keywords (13)

Evolution of protists; Molecular genetics; Paleoceanography; Isthmus of Panama; ecology; evolution; planktic protists; climate; taxonomy; morphometry; automated microscopy; image analysis; neural network classification

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
ECOLOGICAL AND EVOLUTIONARY SIGNIFICANCE OF SIZE IN PLANKTIC PROTISTS Part A: Size change in plankton The four major single celled plankton groups include the sand-grain sized calcitic planktic foraminifera, the opaline radiolaria, the silt-sized calcitic coccolithophores, and opaline diatoms. These groups have been responsible for a large part of pelagic sediment deposition in the deep sea for at least the past 150 million years. They represent the major sink for carbon either removed from the atmosphere or carbon and silica dissolved on continents during weathering processes.The diversity (number of species) and the mean test sizes of all four plankton groups are varying in different areas of the world’s oceans and have changed through geological time depending on temperature, food, and the stability of the surface waters (density stratification). The skeletons can be analyzed in sediment cores recovered during scientific drilling operations in all oceans.With the automated microscopes developed in our group and based on our insights from analyses of planktic foraminifera test sizes in the Holocene and Cenozoic, we perform for the first time such comprehensive size-distribution studies of coccoliths, diatoms, and radiolarians. We expect to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the macroecological and macroevolutionary patterns and processes of size variability in these carbonate and opal producing groups of oceanic zooplankton and phytoplankton. Our research will contribute to fundamental questions of the interrelationship between natural global changes and the behavior of an important part of the organismic world.Part B: Oceanic nutrient cycling, ecology and climate: From oceanic to marginal environments By studying and acquiring high-sedimentation rate cores from marginal basins to open ocean areas we continue to address pertinent questions concerning the responses of the oceanic plankton (bacteria, phyto- and zooplankton groups) to regional and global environmental change on decadal to glacial/interglacial time scales. Foci will be (a) potential links between oceanic nitrogen cycling, carbondioxide sequestration and climate,(b) paleoecological response of coccolithophores to distinct temperature, salinity, fertility changes and large volcanic eruptions, (c) environmental effects of closure of the Atlantic/Pacific gateway and ecological and evolutionary responses of calcareous plankton.Activities and methods include sediment coring; nitrogen, carbon and oxygen isotopes, elemental analysis (XRF-scanner), taxonomic and morphometric analyses (automated microscopy, image analyses, neural network classifiers) of living and fossil plankton skeletons.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
118045 Ecological and evolutionary significance of size in planktic protists 01.10.2007 Project funding
100365 Oceanic nutrient cycling, ecology and climate: From oceanic to marginal environments 01.04.2003 Project funding