Protists decrease in size linearly with temperature: ca. 2.5% degrees C(-1).


An inverse relationship between organism size and rearing temperature is widely observed in ectotherms ('the temperature-size rule', TSR). This has rarely been quantified for related taxa, and its applicability to protists also required testing. Here, we quantify the relationship between temperature and mean cell volume within the protists by a meta-analysis of published data covering marine, brackish water and freshwater autotrophs and heterotrophs. In each of 44 datasets, a linear relationship between temperature and size could not be rejected, and a negative trend was found in 32 cases (20 gave significant negative regressions, p < 0.05). By combining 65 datasets, we revealed, for each 1 degrees C increase, a cell-size reduction of 2.5% (95% CI of 1.7-3.3%) of the volume observed at 15 degrees C. The value did not differ across taxa (amoebae, ciliates, diatoms, dinoflagellates, flagellates), habitats, modes of nutrition or combinations of these. The data are consistent with two hypotheses that are capable of explaining the TSR in ectotherms generally: (i) resource, especially respiratory gas, limitation; and (ii) fitness gains from dividing earlier as population growth increases. Using the above relationship we show how changes in cell numbers with temperature can be estimated from changes in biomass and vice versa; ignoring this relationship would produce a systematic error.

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@article{Atkinson2003ProtistsDI, title={Protists decrease in size linearly with temperature: ca. 2.5% degrees C(-1).}, author={David Atkinson and Benjamin J. Ciotti and David J. S. Montagnes}, journal={Proceedings. Biological sciences}, year={2003}, volume={270 1533}, pages={2605-11} }