DOI: 10.1111/jpy.13357 ISSN: 0022-3646

A discrete, stochastic model of colonial phytoplankton population size structure: Development and application to in situ imaging‐in‐flow cytometer observations of Dinobryon

Tara Tapics, Heidi M. Sosik, Yannick Huot
  • Plant Science
  • Aquatic Science


The scientific community lacks models for the dynamic changes in population size structure that occur in colonial phytoplankton. This is surprising, as size is a key trait affecting many aspects of phytoplankton ecology, and colonial forms are very common. We aim to fill this gap with a new discrete, stochastic model of dynamic changes in phytoplankton colonies' population size structure. We use the colonial phytoplankton Dinobryon as a proof‐of‐concept organism. The model includes four stochastic functions—division, stomatocyst production, colony breakage, and colony loss—to determine Dinobryon population size structure and populations counts. Although the functions presented here are tailored to Dinobryon, the model is readily adaptable to represent other colonial taxa. We demonstrate how fitting our model to in situ observations of colony population size structure can provide a powerful approach to explore colony size dynamics. Here, we have (1) collected high‐frequency in situ observations of Dinobryon in Lac (Lake) Montjoie (Quebec, Canada) in 2013 with a moored Imaging FlowCytobot (IFCB) and (2) fit the model to those observations with a genetic algorithm solver that extracts parameter estimates for each of the four stochastic functions. As an example of the power of this model‐data integration, we also highlight ecological insights into Dinobryon colony size and stomatocyst production. The Dinobryon population was enriched in larger, flagellate‐rich colonies near bloom initiation and shifted to smaller and emptier colonies toward bloom decline.

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