Neither Plants nor Animals, These Ocean Organisms Protect Their Ecosystems against Heat Waves

The new study, published recently in Aquatic Microbial Ecology, found that mixotrophic species made up a larger percentage of the plankton in the Gulf of Alaska during two major heat waves (from 2014 to 2016 and in 2019) than in years with average ocean temperatures. And even among the mixotrophs, the more generalist species—those able to feed on and form relationships with a wider range of phytoplankton—survived the heat waves better than more specialized ones. “Having more than one way to live in your back pocket is probably extremely advantageous in a highly variable environment,” says Suzanne Strom, senior marine scientist at Western Washington University and the paper’s lead author.