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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 64:105-116 (2011)  -  DOI:

Species-specific patterns in the vulnerability of ­carbon-starved bacteria to protist grazing

Ruth Anderson1, Staffan Kjelleberg2,3, Diane McDougald2,3, Klaus Jürgens1,*

1Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, Department of Biological Oceanography, Seestrasse 15, 18119 Rostock-Warnemünde, Germany
2The School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales, 2052 Sydney, Australia
3The Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation, University of New South Wales, 2052 Sydney, Australia
*Corresponding author.Email:

ABSTRACT: Many heterotrophic bacteria possess adaptations for prolonged survival under carbon and energy limitation, generally involving a reduction in cell size and an increased resistance to environmental stress factors. In order to reveal whether carbon-starved bacteria also become less vulnerable to ­protist grazing, we compared the growth of a bacterivorous nanoflagellate, Cafeteria roenbergensis, on different physiological states of 3 bacterial strains with well-studied starvation responses (Vibrio vulnificus, Photobacterium angustum and Sphingopyxis alaskensis). Protists achieved high growth rates on all 3 bacterial strains when they were provided in a non-starved state. However, for carbon-starved bacteria, pronounced differences in the re­sponse of the flagellates were observed. P. angustum provided similar protist growth for an equal biomass of non-starved and starved cultures, indicating no change in food quality or grazing resistance for carbon-starved cells, despite smaller cell size. In contrast, starved V. vulnificus did not support protist growth, even resulting in a strong decrease in flagellate numbers at most concentrations tested; and starved S. alaskensis provided only reduced growth rates. Our results demonstrate that (1) feeding on bacteria of smaller cell size does not necessarily impose energy constraints on a flagellate grazer, and (2) a pronounced species-specific variability exists in the susceptibility of carbon-starved bacteria to protist grazing.

KEY WORDS: Grazing vulnerability · Carbon ­starvation · Growth rate · Protist · Bacteria

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Cite this article as: Anderson R, Kjelleberg S, McDougald D, Jürgens K (2011) Species-specific patterns in the vulnerability of ­carbon-starved bacteria to protist grazing. Aquat Microb Ecol 64:105-116.

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