Faculty Publications

Document Type



Marine protists are integral to the structure and function of pelagic ecosystems and marine carbon cycling, with rhizarian biomass alone accounting for more than half of all mesozooplankton in the oligotrophic oceans. Yet, understanding how their environment shapes diversity within species and across taxa is limited by a paucity of observations of heritability and life history. Here, we present observations of asexual reproduction, morphologic plasticity, and ontogeny in the planktic foraminifer in laboratory culture. Our results demonstrate that planktic foraminifera reproduce both sexually and asexually and demonstrate extensive phenotypic plasticity in response to nonheritable factors. These two processes fundamentally explain the rapid spatial and temporal response of even imperceptibly low populations of planktic foraminifera to optimal conditions and the diversity and ubiquity of these species across the range of environmental conditions that occur in the ocean.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


© 2020 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

APA Citation

Davis, C., Livsey, C., Palmer, H., Hull, P., Thomas, E., Hill, T., & Benitez-Nelson, C. (2020). Extensive morphological variability in asexually produced planktic foraminifera. Science Advances, 6(28).