In the ongoing discussion of the distribution of protists, whether they are globally distributed or endemic to one or both of the polar regions is the subject of heated debate. In this study, we compared next-generation sequencing data from the Arctic and the Southern oceans to reveal the extent of similarities and dissimilarities between the protist communities in the polar regions. We found a total overlap of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) between the two regions of 11.2%. On closer inspection of different taxonomic groups, the overlap ranged between 5.5% (haptophytes) and 14.5% (alveolates). Within the different groups, the proportion of OTUs occurring in both regions greatly differed between the polar regions. On the one hand, the overlap between these two regions is remarkable, given the geographical distance between them. On the other hand, one could expect a greater overlap of OTUs between these regions on account of the similar environmental conditions. The overlap suggests a connection between the polar regions for at least certain species or that the evolutionary divergence has been slow, relative to the timescales of isolation. The different proportions of common OTUs among the groups or regions may be a result of different life cycle strategies or environmental adaptations.
Helmholtz Research Programs > PACES II (2014-2018) > TOPIC 1: Changes and regional feedbacks in Arctic and Antarctic > WP 1.5: Southern Ocean physics, biodiversity, and biogeochemical fluxes in a changing climate