Deep-branching novel lineages and high diversity of haptophytes in the Skagerrak (Norway) uncovered by 454 pyrosequencing

J Eukaryot Microbiol. 2015 Jan-Feb;62(1):121-40. doi: 10.1111/jeu.12157. Epub 2014 Sep 25.


Microalgae in the division Haptophyta may be difficult to identify to species by microscopy because they are small and fragile. Here, we used high-throughput sequencing to explore the diversity of haptophytes in outer Oslofjorden, Skagerrak, and supplemented this with electron microscopy. Nano- and picoplanktonic subsurface samples were collected monthly for 2 yr, and the haptophytes were targeted by amplification of RNA/cDNA with Haptophyta-specific 18S ribosomal DNA V4 primers. Pyrosequencing revealed higher species richness of haptophytes than previously observed in the Skagerrak by microscopy. From ca. 400,000 reads we obtained 156 haptophyte operational taxonomic units (OTUs) after rigorous filtering and 99.5% clustering. The majority (84%) of the OTUs matched environmental sequences not linked to a morphological species, most of which were affiliated with the order Prymnesiales. Phylogenetic analyses including Oslofjorden OTUs and available cultured and environmental haptophyte sequences showed that several of the OTUs matched sequences forming deep-branching lineages, potentially representing novel haptophyte classes. Pyrosequencing also retrieved cultured species not previously reported by microscopy in the Skagerrak. Electron microscopy revealed species not yet genetically characterised and some potentially novel taxa. This study contributes to linking genotype to phenotype within this ubiquitous and ecologically important protist group, and reveals great, unknown diversity.

Keywords: 18S rDNA; Haptophyta; Oslofjorden; electron microscopy; environmental sequencing; high-throughput sequencing; phylogeny; protist; richness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA Barcoding, Taxonomic
  • DNA Primers / chemistry
  • DNA, Algal / genetics*
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Haptophyta / classification
  • Haptophyta / genetics*
  • Haptophyta / ultrastructure
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Microalgae / classification
  • Microalgae / genetics*
  • Microalgae / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Norway
  • Phenotype
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics*


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Algal
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S