Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso

Phytoplankton

  • Zoe V. FinkelEmail author
  • Andrew J. Irwin
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_5416-1

Synonyms

Definition

The term plankton comes from the Greek meaning to drift or wander and was introduced in 1887 by Victor Hensen to refer to biological matter that drifts in bodies of water (Mills 1989). The term phytoplankton refers to the photosynthetic species of the plankton community. Phytoplankton are a genetically diverse set of organisms that include the prokaryotic cyanobacteria and many eukaryotic groups (Hackett et al. 2007; Simon et al. 2009).

Overview

Evolutionary History

Microfossil and molecular clock evidence indicates that prokaryotes originated in the Archean and eukaryotes in the Proterozoic (Betts et al. 2018). Determining when these groups first became photosynthetic, first became planktonic, and whether they originally inhabited fresh or marine environments is extremely challenging. Analyses of extant cyanobacterial genomes indicate that photosynthesis may have been acquired relatively late in the evolution of cyanobacteria, perhaps not long...

Keywords

Algae Phytoplankton Primary production Biogeochemistry Climate change 
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References and Further Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of OceanographyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada