Microbial Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 151-159

Evidence for an enhanced substrate requirement by marine mesophilic bacterial isolates at minimal growth temperatures

  • William J. WiebeAffiliated withInstitute of Ecology, University of GeorgiaDepartment of Microbiology, University of Georgia
  • , Wade M. SheldonJr.Affiliated withInstitute of Ecology, University of Georgia
  • , Lawrence R. PomeroyAffiliated withInstitute of Ecology, University of Georgia

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Bacterial isolates from the subtropical southeastern continental shelf were cultured in a matrix of temperature and substrate concentrations encompassing a range of temperature and substrate concentrations equal to and exceeding natural ones. At the annual minimum temperature, marine heterotrophic bacterial isolates required higher concentrations of dissolved substrates for active growth than are usually found in seawater. We show this to result from a nonlinear interaction of the combined effects of temperature and substrate concentration on bacterial growth and respiratory rate. As a result, bacterial and protozoan utilization of phytoplankton production during winter and early spring is low, permitting greater energy flow to zooplankton and benthic animals, while in late spring, summer, and fall, the microbial loop dominates energy flux and organic carbon utilization. Escherichia coli shows a similar nonlinear response to temperature at minimal substrate concentrations, albeit at a higher range of concentrations than were utilized by the marine isolates. Thus, bacteria from subtropical regions are shown to have a differential growth response near the minimum temperature for growth, depending on the concentration of available substrates.