Marine snow aggregates represent heterogeneous agglomerates of dead and living organic matter. Composition is decisive for their sinking rates, and thereby for carbon flux to the deep sea. For oligotrophic oceans, information on aggregate composition is particularly sparse. To address this, the taxonomic composition of aggregates collected from the subtropical and oligotrophic Sargasso Sea (Atlantic Ocean) was characterized by 16S and 18S rRNA gene sequencing. Taxonomy assignment was aided by a collection of the contemporary plankton community consisting of 75 morphologically and genetically identified plankton specimens. The diverse rRNA gene reads of marine snow aggregates, not considering Trichodesmium puffs, were dominated by copepods (52%), cnidarians (21%), radiolarians (11%), and alveolates (8%), with sporadic contributions by cyanobacteria, suggesting a different aggregate composition than in eutrophic regions. Composition linked significantly with sampling location but not to any measured environmental parameters or plankton biomass composition. Nevertheless, indicator and network analyses identified key roles of a few rare taxa. This points to complex regulation of aggregate composition, conceivably affected by the environment and plankton characteristics. The extent to which this has implications for particle densities, and consequently for sinking rates and carbon sequestration in oligotrophic waters, needs further interrogation.
Lundgreen, R. B. C., Jaspers, C., Traving, S. J., Ayala, D. J., Lombard, F., Grossart, H-P., ... Riemann, L. (2019). Eukaryotic and cyanobacterial communities associated with marine snow particles in the oligotrophic Sargasso Sea. Scientific Reports, 9, . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-45146-7