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Biological nitrogen fixation, the conversion of N2 gas into a bioavailable form, is vital to sustaining marine primary production. Studies have shifted beyond traditionally studied tropical diazotrophs. Candidatus Atelocyanobacterium thalassa (or UCYN-A) has emerged as a focal point due to its streamlined metabolism, intimate partnership with a haptophyte host, and broad distribution. Here, we explore the environmental parameters that govern UCYN-A’s presence at the San Pedro Ocean Time-series (SPOT), its host specificity, and statistically significant interactions with non-host eukaryotes from 2008-2018. 16S and 18S rRNA gene sequences were amplified by “universal primers” from monthly samples and resolved into Amplicon Sequence Variants, allowing us to observe multiple UCYN-A symbioses. UCYN-A1 relative abundances increased following the 2015-2016 El Niño event. This “open ocean ecotype” was present when coastal upwelling declined, and Ekman transport brought tropical waters into the region. Network analyses reveal all strains of UCYN-A co-occur with dinoflagellates including Lepidodinium, a potential predator, and parasitic Syndiniales. UCYN-A2 appeared to pair with multiple hosts and was not tightly coupled to its predominant host, while UCYN-A1 maintained a strong host-symbiont relationship. These biological relationships are particularly important to study in the context of climate change, which will alter UCYN-A distribution at regional and global scales.


This article was originally published in ISME Communications, volume 3, in 2023.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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