AME 61:261-277 (2010)  -  doi:10.3354/ame01424

Linkage between crustacean zooplankton and aquatic bacteria

Kam W. Tang1, Valentina Turk2, Hans-Peter Grossart3,*

1Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062, USA
2National Institute of Biology, Marine Biology Station, 6330 Piran, Slovenia
3Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Dept. Limnology of Stratified Lakes, Alte Fischerhuette 2, 16775 Stechlin, Germany
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Bacteria and metazoan zooplankton (mainly crustaceans) are often viewed as 2 separate functional groups in the pelagic food webs indirectly linked via nutrient cycling and trophic cascades. Yet a zooplankterÕs body carries a high abundance of diverse bacteria, often at an equivalent concentration orders of magnitude higher than the ambient bacterial concentration. Zooplankton bodies are organic-rich micro-environments that support fast bacterial growth. Their physical-chemical conditions differ from those in the surrounding water and therefore select for different bacterial communities, including anaerobic bacteria that otherwise may not thrive in a well-oxygenated water column. The zooplankton body provides protection to the associated bacteria from environmental stresses similar to biofilms. Furthermore, migration by zooplankton enables rapid dispersal of bacteria over vast distances and across boundaries such as the pycnocline. In addition to live zooplankton, molts, fecal pellets, and carcasses of zooplankton all influence water column and benthic microbial communities in various ways. We review the recent advances in the study of (crustacean) zooplanktonÐbacteria interactions and discuss future research opportunities and challenges. Traditional aquatic microbial ecology emphasizes free-living bacteria, which represent only a fraction of the microbial world. By transcending disciplinary boundaries, microbial ecologists and zooplankton ecologists can work together to integrate the two disciplines and advance our understanding in aquatic microbial ecology.

KEY WORDS: Zooplankton · Bacteria · Zooplankton-bacteria interactions · Food web · Bacterial dispersal · Hotspots

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Cite this article as: Tang KW, Turk V, Grossart HP (2010) Linkage between crustacean zooplankton and aquatic bacteria. Aquat Microb Ecol 61:261-277

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