Microbial Ecology

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 89–104 | Cite as

Factors responsible for the differences in cultural estimates and direct microscopical counts of populations of bacterivorous nanoflagellates

  • David A. Caron
  • Paul G. Davis
  • John McN Sieburth


Bacterivorous nanoflagellates (microflagellates) have been routinely enumerated in marine and freshwater samples using either a Most Probable Number (MPN) culture method or by a direct microscopical counting method (DC). These two techniques typically yield highly disparate estimates of the density of nanoflagellates in natural samples. We compared these methods with seawater and marine snow (macroscopic detrital aggregate) samples collected from surface waters throughout the North Atlantic and in freshwater samples collected at three stations in Lake Ontario. Densities of nanoflagellates determined by the two methods differed by as much as four orders of magnitude; the MPN estimate rarely exceeded 10% of the microscopical count, and averaged ≈ 1% of this count. The MPN estimate constituted a higher percentage of the DC value in environments with high concentrations of nanoflagellates relative to environments with low concentrations of nanoflagellates. The ratio of the culture count to the microscopical count (MPN∶DC) increased along an environmental gradient from oligotrophy to eutrophy, and was positively correlated with the density of bacteria in the samples. In laboratory experiments with two species of bacterivorous nanoflagellates, the MPN count constituted a much greater percentage of the DC count during the exponential growth phase of the nanoflagellate than during the stationary growth phase. Differences in the estimates of nanoflagellate density obtained with these two techniques probably can be explained by the trophic mode of these protozoa, their growth stage, and the amenability of these species to laboratory culture.


Growth Phase Environmental Gradient Exponential Growth Phase Most Probable Number Stationary Growth Phase 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. Caron
    • 1
  • Paul G. Davis
    • 2
  • John McN Sieburth
    • 3
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.West HatfieldUSA
  3. 3.Graduate School of OceanographyUniversity of Rhode IslandNarragansettUSA

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