Phago-mixotrophy, the combination of photoautotrophy and phagotrophy in mixoplankton, organisms that can combine both trophic strategies, have gained increasing attention over the past decade. It is now recognized that a substantial number of protistan plankton species engage in phago-mixotrophy to obtain nutrients for growth and reproduction under a range of environmental conditions. Unfortunately, our current understanding of mixoplankton in aquatic systems significantly lags behind our understanding of zooplankton and phytoplankton, limiting our ability to fully comprehend the role of mixoplankton (and phago-mixotrophy) in the plankton food web and biogeochemical cycling. Here, we put forward five research directions that we believe will lead to major advancement in the field: (i) evolution: understanding mixotrophy in the context of the evolutionary transition from phagotrophy to photoautotrophy; (ii) traits and trade-offs: identifying the key traits and trade-offs constraining mixotrophic metabolisms; (iii) biogeography: large-scale patterns of mixoplankton distribution; (iv) biogeochemistry and trophic transfer: understanding mixoplankton as conduits of nutrients and energy; and (v) in situ methods: improving the identification of in situ mixoplankton and their phago-mixotrophic activity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science