As both photoautotrophs and calcifiers, coccolithophores play important roles in ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles. Though some species form blooms in high-latitude waters, low-latitude communities exhibit high diversity and niche diversification. Despite such diversity, our understanding of the clade relies on knowledge of Emiliana huxleyi. To address this, we examine carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) content of strains (n = 9) from the main families of the calcifying Haptophyceae, as well as allometry and cell size frequency across extant species. Coccolithophore cell size is constrained, with ~71% of 159 species smaller than 10 μm in diameter. Growth rates scale with cell biovolume (μ = 1.83 × cell volume−0.19), with an exponent close to metabolic theory. Organic carbon (C) per cell is lower than for other phytoplankton, providing a coccolithophore-specific relationship between cell organic C content and biovolume (pg C cell−1 = 0.30 × cell volume0.70). Organic C to N ratios (~8.3 mol:mol) are similar to other phytoplankton, implying little additional N cost for calcification and efficient retention and recycling of cell N. Our results support observations that coccolithophores are efficient competitors in low-nutrient conditions, able to photosynthesize, calcify and run the routine metabolic machinery necessary without any additional need for N relative to noncalcifying algae.
- comparative biochemistry
- elemental stoichiometry