Biotic interactions underlie life's diversity and are the lynchpin to understanding its complexity and resilience within an ecological niche. Algal biologists have embraced this paradigm, and studies building on the explosive growth in omics and cell biology methods have facilitated the in-depth analysis of nonmodel organisms and communities from a variety of ecosystems. In turn, these advances have enabled a major revision of our understanding of the origin and evolution of photosynthesis in eukaryotes, bacterial-algal interactions, control of massive algal blooms in the ocean, and the maintenance and degradation of coral reefs.
Here, we review some of the most exciting developments in the field of algal biotic interactions and identify challenges for scientists in the coming years.
We foresee the development of an algal knowledgebase that integrates ecosystem-wide omics data and the development of molecular tools/resources to perform functional analyses of individuals in isolation and in populations. These assets will allow us to move beyond mechanistic studies of a single species towards understanding the interactions amongst algae and other organisms in both the laboratory and the field.