New data-driven method from 3D confocal microscopy for calculating phytoplankton cell biovolume

L. Roselli, F. Paparella, E. Stanca, A. Basset

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Confocal laser scanner microscopy coupled with an image analysis system was used to directly determine the shape and calculate the biovolume of phytoplankton organisms by constructing 3D models of cells. The study was performed on Biceratium furca (Ehrenberg) Vanhoeffen, which is one of the most complex-shaped phytoplankton. Traditionally, biovolume is obtained from a standardized set of geometric models based on linear dimensions measured by light microscopy. However, especially in the case of complex-shaped cells, biovolume is affected by very large errors associated with the numerous manual measurements that this entails. We evaluate the accuracy of these traditional methods by comparing the results obtained using geometric models with direct biovolume measurement by image analysis. Our results show cell biovolume measurement based on decomposition into simple geometrical shapes can be highly inaccurate. Although we assume that the most accurate cell shape is obtained by 3D direct biovolume measurement, which is based on voxel counting, the intrinsic uncertainty of this method is explored and assessed. Finally, we implement a data-driven formula-based approach to the calculation of biovolume of this complex-shaped organism. On one hand, the model is obtained from 3D direct calculation. On the other hand, it is based on just two linear dimensions which can easily be measured by hand. This approach has already been used for investigating the complexities of morphology and for determining the 3D structure of cells. It could also represent a novel way to generalize scaling laws for biovolume calculation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)200-211
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Microscopy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • 3D models
  • Biovolume
  • Complex shape
  • Confocal laser scanning microscopy
  • Phytoplankton
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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