Intraspecific trait variation and trade-offs within and across populations of a toxic dinoflagellate

Karen M. Brandenburg (Corresponding author), Sylke Wohlrab, Uwe John, Anke Kremp, Jacqueline Jerney, Bernd Krock, Dedmer B. Van de Waal

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Abstract Intraspecific trait diversity can promote the success of a species, as complementarity of functional traits within populations may enhance its competitive success and facilitates resilience to changing environmental conditions. Here, we experimentally determined the variation and relationships between traits in 15 strains of the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium ostenfeldii derived from two populations. Measured traits included growth rate, cell size, elemental composition, nitrogen uptake kinetics, toxin production and allelochemical potency. Our results demonstrate substantial variation in all analysed traits both within and across populations, particularly in nitrogen affinity, which was even comparable to interspecific variation across phytoplankton species. We found distinct trade-offs between maximum nitrogen uptake rate and affinity, and between defensive and competitive traits. Furthermore, we identified differences in trait variation between the genetically similar populations. The observed high trait variation may facilitate development and resilience of harmful algal blooms under dynamic environmental conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1561-1571
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number10
Early online date16 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Eco-evolutionary dynamics
  • biodiversity
  • population ecology
  • harmful algal blooms
  • Alexandrium ostenfeldii
  • international


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