Microbial Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 237–243 | Cite as

The significance of viruses to mortality in aquatic microbial communities

  • C. A. Suttle
Controls of the Microbial Loop: Biotic Factors


A variety of approaches including enumeration of visibly infected microbes, removal of viral particles, decay of viral infectivity, and measurements of viral production rates have been used to infer the impact of viruses on microbial mortality. The results are surprisingly consistent and suggest that, on average, about 20% of marine heterotrophic bacteria are infected by viruses and 10–20% of the bacterial community is lysed daily by viruses. The effect of viruses on phytoplankton is less certain, but ca. 3% of Synechococcus biomass may be lysed daily. The fraction of primary productivity this represents depends upon the relative biomass and growth rate of Synechococcus. Virus enrichment experiments suggest that the productivity of eukaryotic phytoplankton would be ca. 2% higher in the absence of viruses. Overall, probably about 2–3% of primary productivity is lost to viral lysis. There is considerable variation about these estimates; however, they represent a starting point for incorporating viral-mediated processes into aquatic ecosystem models.


Biomass Phytoplankton Microbial Community Bacterial Community Synechococcus 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. A. Suttle
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Science InstituteThe University of Texas at AustinPort AransasUSA

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