Distribution of ultramicrobacteria in a gulf coast estuary and induction of ultramicrobacteria
- Cite this article as:
- Hood, M.A. & MacDonell, M.T. Microb Ecol (1987) 14: 113. doi:10.1007/BF02013017
The abundance of ultramicrobacteria (i.e., bacteria that pass through a 0.2μm filter) in a subtropical Alabama estuary was determined during a 1-year period. Although phenotypic and molecular characterization indicated that the population of ultramicrobacteria was dominated byVibrio species, species ofListonella andPseudomonas were also abundant. Vibrios occurred with the greatest frequency in waters whose salinities were less than 14‰, and were the most abundant species of the total ultramicrobacterial population year-round, whilePseudomonas species were absent or considerably reduced during the winter months. The total number of ultramicrobacteria showed an inverse relationship to total heterotrophic bacteria as measured by colony-forming units (CFU)/ml and to water quality as measured by several parameters. Analysis by generic composition indicated that both salinity and temperature significantly affected the distribution of these organisms. Laboratory studies revealed that strains of vibrios under starvation in both static and continuous-flow microcosms could be induced to form cells that passed through 0.2 and/or 0.4μm filters. Cells exposed to low nutrients became very small; some grew on both oligotrophic (5.5 mg carbon/liter) and eutrophic (5.5 g carbon/liter) media; and some few cells grew only on oligotrophic media. By passing selected vibrio strains on progressively diluted nutrient media, cells were also obtained that were small, that passed through 0.4μm filters, and that could grow in oligotrophic media. These results suggest that ultramicrobacteria in estuaries (at least some portion of the population) may be nutrientstarved or low nutrient-induced forms of certain heterotrophic, eutrophic, autochthonous, estuarine bacteria.