Advances in Microbial Ecology

Volume 10 of the series Advances in Microbial Ecology pp 1-44

Dynamics of Interactions between Bacteria and Virulent Bacteriophage

  • Richard E. LenskiAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California

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The interactions of bacteria and their viruses (bacteriophage) are, by and large, ones of trophic exploitation. In fact, “phage” is derived from the Greek word for “devour.” Using the criterion of relative size, the interactions can be defined as parasitism (Bull and Slater, 1982). Because replication by most virulent phage necessarily results in bacterial death, these interactions could also be called predation. Certain interactions could even be termed mutualistic, as some temperate phage encode phenotypic characteristics that are of direct benefit to their hosts. Semantics aside, the fundamental ecological question that I will attempt to address in this chapter is: What role do bacteriophage infections play in limiting the abundance of bacteria?