Microbial Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 313–329 | Cite as

Chemoautotrophic, sulfur-oxidizing symbiotic bacteria on marine nematodes: Morphological and biochemical characterization

  • Martin F. Polz
  • Horst Felbeck
  • Rudolf Novak
  • Monika Nebelsick
  • Jörg A. Ott


The marine, free-living Stilbonematinae (Nematoda: Desmodorida) inhabit the oxygen sulfide chemocline in marine sands. They are characterized by an association with ectosymbiotic bacteria. According to their ultrastructure the bacteria are Gram-negative and form morphologically uniform coats that cover the entire body surface of the worms. They are arranged in host-genus or host-species specific patterns: cocci form multilayered sheaths, rods, and crescent- or filament-shaped bacteria form monolayers. The detection of enzymes associated with sulfur metabolism and of ribulose-1,5 bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase, as well as elemental sulfur in the bacteria indicate a chemolithoautotrophic nature of the symbionts. Their reproductive patterns appear to optimize space utilization on the host surface: vertically standing rods divide by longitudinal fission, whereas other bacteria form non-septate filaments of up to 100 μm length.


Sulfide Biochemical Characterization Entire Body Symbiotic Bacterium Sulfur Metabolism 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin F. Polz
    • 1
  • Horst Felbeck
    • 2
  • Rudolf Novak
    • 1
  • Monika Nebelsick
    • 1
  • Jörg A. Ott
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Zoologie, Abteilung für Meeresbiologie und UltrastrukturforschungUniversität WienViennaAustria
  2. 2.Marine Biology Research DivisionScripps Institution of OceanographyLa JollaUSA

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