Morphological adaptations to small size in the marine diatom Minidiscus comicus


  • David Jewson Freshwater Laboratory, University of Ulster
  • Akira Kuwata Tohoku National Fisheries Research Institute
  • Lluïsa Cros Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC
  • José Manuel Fortuño Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC
  • Marta Estrada Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC



marine diatom, Minidiscus comicus, size change, size limit, size restoration


Minidiscus comicus is a marine centric diatom that has cells with diameters as small as 1.9 μm, which brings it close to the lower limit of diatom cell size and also near to the lower limit of photosynthetic eukaryote cells. One of the questions that this raises is whether the cycle of size decline and size restoration used by most diatoms to time their life cycle can operate in such small cells. In samples collected from the western Mediterranean during 2009, M. comicus cells were found with diameters ranging from 1.9 to 6.0 μm. The larger cells were initial cells after size restoration, and these still had the valves of their parent cells attached, making it possible to determine the diameter of the threshold below which size restoration could be induced (3.1 μm). During size decline, M. comicus cell shape changed from discoid to spherical. This adaptation helped to reduce and even halt the rate of cell volume decrease, allowing cells to continue to use diameter decline as a clocking mechanism. The results show how adaptable the diatom cell wall can be, in spite of its rigid appearance.


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How to Cite

Jewson D, Kuwata A, Cros L, Fortuño JM, Estrada M. Morphological adaptations to small size in the marine diatom Minidiscus comicus. scimar [Internet]. 2016Sep.30 [cited 2023Dec.11];80(S1):89-96. Available from:




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