Temporal range: 0.012-0.0 Ma
Chaetoceros is probably the largest genus of marine planktonic diatoms with approximately 400 species described, although a large number of these descriptions are no longer[when?] valid. It is often very difficult to distinguish between different Chaetoceros species. Several attempts have been made to restructure this large genus into subgenera and this work is still[when?] in progress. However, most of the effort to describe species has been focused in boreal areas, and the genus is cosmopolitan, so there are probably many tropical species still undescribed. Some species are known from the fossil record, from the Quaternary of Sweden. It is the type genus of its family.
The genus Chaetoceros were first described by Ehrenberg in 1844.
Cells are more or less rectangular in girdle view.
Cells are usually elliptical in valve view.
Opposite setae of adjacent cells touch near their origin.
Chaetoceros is primarily a marine genus, but there are also accounts of species within inland waters of the United States. It is a type of centric diatom that contains a frustrule or cell wall composed of silica that contain long, thin spins (setae). The spines connect the frustules together creating a colony of cells. Cells colonies can form chains that are coiled, straight, or curved. Cell size can range from <10 um to 50 um.
Depth range (m): 0 - 470
Temperature range (°C): -1.952 - 29.468
Nitrate (?mol L-1): 0.053 - 34.037
Salinity: 18.564 - 37.775
Oxygen (mL L-1): 4.139 - 9.192
Phosphate (?mol L-1): 0.046 - 2.358
Silicate (?mol L-1): 0.648 - 92.735
Studies suggest that colonies of Chaetoceros serve as an important food source within the water column and major carbon contributor to the benthic environment. Within the North Water, located in northern Baffin Bay, Chaetoceros has been reported to contribute about 91% of total phytoplankton cells serving as an important primary producer within this area. Therefore, contributing to oxygen production in the North Water. Overall, phytoplankton contributes to over half of Earth's oxygen production.
Chaetoceros blooms have been reported to reach concentrations of 30,100 cells/ml and can persist for multiple months. Blooms are able to persist because individuals can survive at low nutrient levels. When present in large quantities, species with larger, thicker spines can damage organisms' gills. Although, this defensive trait can help the species avoid predation and further promote bloom success.