Chapter

Coccolithophores

pp 429-453

Why is the Land Green and the Ocean Red?

  • Paul G. FalkowskiAffiliated withDepartment of Geological Sciences, Rutgers UniversityEnvironmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University
  • , Oscar SchofieldAffiliated withEnvironmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University
  • , Miriam E. KatzAffiliated withDepartment of Geological Sciences, Rutgers University
  • , Bas Van de SchootbruggeAffiliated withDepartment of Geological Sciences, Rutgers UniversityEnvironmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University
  • , Andrew H. KnollAffiliated withDepartment of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University

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Summary

Fossil evidence suggests that during the Paleozoic Era, green algae dominated eukaryotic phytoplankton taxa. One branch of this originally aquatic clade colonized terrestrial ecosystems to form what would become a green hegemony on land -with few exceptions, terrestrial plants are green. In contrast to land plants, contemporary oceanic phytoplankton are represented by relatively few species that are phylogenetically deeply branching. Since the Triassic Period, the major taxa of eukaryotic phytoplankton preserved in the fossil record have been dominated by organisms containing plastids derived from the “red”, chlorophyll c containing algal clade. The ocean became “red” sometime during the Triassic or early Jurassic periods. The evolutionary success of the red line in Mesozoic and younger oceans appears related to changing oceanic conditions. In this chapter, we briefly explore the evolutionary processes and ecological traits that potentially led to the success of the red line in the oceans.