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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 48:91-104 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/ame048091

Community structure of marine sedimentary protists in relation to flow and grain size

Jeff Shimeta1,4,*, Rebecca J. Gast2, Julie M. Rose3

1Biology Department, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17604-3003, USA
2Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
3College of Marine and Earth Studies, University of Delaware, Lewes, Delaware 19958, USA
4Present address: Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia

ABSTRACT: Populations of unicellular, marine sedimentary protists are constrained by a variety of physical environmental factors, but influences of flow regime have rarely been studied. We compared community structure among 3 subtidal sites differing in flow strength and grain size in a coastal bay. We used denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) to assess eukaryotic diversity based on 18S rDNA, and quantitative Protargol staining (QPS) to examine ciliate communities by microscopy. Sedimentary 18S rDNA in mid-summer was dominated by diatoms. Analyses of gel bands by presence/ absence among sites, dendogram, and multidimensional scaling showed that eukaryotic community structure was related to grain size more strongly than to flow regime. Among bands identified as diatoms by recovery and sequence analysis, 4 taxa (40%) differed among sites in relation to flow strength, and 2 taxa (29%) differed in relation to grain size. No bands had sequences matching ciliates, but QPS showed that 6 ciliate species (20%) were distributed in relation to flow, and 10 species (33%), in relation to grain size. Ciliate species richness and community similarity were greatest for the 2 strong-flow sites, despite differences in mean grain size. The strong-flow, silty site had the highest concentrations of chlorophyll a, total ciliates, karyorelictids, and scuticociliates, and the lowest ciliate species diversity. DGGE was run again for this site 1 mo later and revealed a shift in the rDNA pool to dominance by metazoans. Flow regime and grain size may be important factors structuring subtidal communities of sedimentary protists.

KEY WORDS: Ciliates · Diatoms · Benthic · Community structure · Flow · Grain size · DGGE

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