AME 28:229-237 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/ame028229

Variability in motility characteristics among marine bacteria

Jens Efsen Johansen1, Jarone Pinhassi2,*, Nicholas Blackburn3, Ulla Li Zweifel4, Åke Hagström4

1Microbial Ecology and Biotechnology, National Environmental Research Institute, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
2Departament de Biologia Marina i Oceanografia, Institut de Ciències del Mar-CMIMA (CSIC), Passeig Marìtim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
3Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Copenhagen, Strandpromenaden 5, 3000 Helsingør, Denmark
4Marine Science, Kalmar University, PO Box 905, 39129 Kalmar, Sweden
*Corresponding author. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Motility characteristics of a phylogenetically diverse collection of widespread marine bacteria were investigated using phase contrast microscopy in combination with digital image analysis. Thirty-eight isolated bacteria were identified by sequencing the 16S rDNA and an additional 46 unidentified isolates were included in this study. The identified bacteria were γ-Proteobacteria (e.g. Vibrio and Pseudoalteromonas), α-Proteobacteria (e.g. Roseobacter and Caulobacter), members of the Cytophaga group and a Gram-positive strain. The mean swimming speed of the investigated bacteria growing in Zobell medium ranged from 11 to 38 μm s-1, with a majority of the bacteria having a mean speed of 15 to 25 μm s-1. Maximum speeds reached 75 μm s-1. Acceleration ranged from 80 to 189 μm s-2 with an average of 121 μm s-2. Mean run times ranged between 0.105 and 0.323 s. A significant positive correlation between growth rate and mean swimming speed was found. A total of 70% of the bacterial isolates showed a turn angle larger than 150° (range 127 to 180°), demonstrating that reversal of swimming direction is an important strategy for bacteria in the marine environment, in contrast to the biased random walk exhibited by enteric bacteria.


KEY WORDS: Bacterial motility · Swimming speed · Acceleration · Nutrient patches · Bacterioplankton


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