Achieving temperature-size changes in a unicellular organism

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Authors: Forster, J., Hirst, A.G. and Esteban, G.F.

Journal: ISME Journal

Volume: 7

Issue: 1

Pages: 28-36

eISSN: 1751-7370

ISSN: 1751-7362

DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2012.76

The temperature-size rule (TSR) is an intraspecific phenomenon describing the phenotypic plastic response of an organism size to the temperature: individuals reared at cooler temperatures mature to be larger adults than those reared at warmer temperatures. The TSR is ubiquitous, affecting >80% species including uni- and multicellular groups. How the TSR is established has received attention in multicellular organisms, but not in unicells. Further, conceptual models suggest the mechanism of size change to be different in these two groups. Here, we test these theories using the protist Cyclidium glaucoma. We measure cell sizes, along with population growth during temperature acclimation, to determine how and when the temperature-size changes are achieved. We show that mother and daughter sizes become temporarily decoupled from the ratio 2:1 during acclimation, but these return to their coupled state (where daughter cells are half the size of the mother cell) once acclimated. Thermal acclimation is rapid, being completed within approximately a single generation. Further, we examine the impact of increased temperatures on carrying capacity and total biomass, to investigate potential adaptive strategies of size change. We demonstrate no temperature effect on carrying capacity, but maximum supported biomass to decrease with increasing temperature. © 2013 International Society for Microbial Ecology All rights reserved.

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