Heterotrophic nanoflagellate enhancement of bacterial growth through nutrient remineralization in chemostat culture

Selph, KE, Landry MR, Laws EA.  2003.  Heterotrophic nanoflagellate enhancement of bacterial growth through nutrient remineralization in chemostat culture. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 32:23-37.

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bacterial growth rates, carbon, cell-volume, chemostats, efficiency, equatorial pacific, excretion rates, flb, flow cytometry, gross growth, long-term, marine-bacteria, microflagellate food-chain, nanoflagellate grazing, north, nutrient, pacific, paraphysomonas-imperforata, remineralization, tetrahymena-pyriformis


Heterotrophic nanoflagellates are the principal consumers of picoplankton in the ocean. Their role as nutrient remineralizers is also well established. However, the coupled interactions between grazer consumption and prey growth are less well understood. In this work, we demonstrate a tight coupling among flagellate grazing, nitrogen remineralization, and prey growth, resulting in bacterial growth rates averaging 2- to 14-fold higher in the presence of flagellate grazers. These results were obtained using 2-stage, nitrogen-limited chemostats containing a mixed culture of heterotrophic bacteria enriched from seawater and Paraphysomonas bandaiensis, a chrysomonad flagellate. Abundance and biovolume of the flagellates were monitored on a daily basis, as was bacterial abundance. Grazing rates were measured using short-term tracer uptake experiments (fluorescently-labeled bacteria and beads), and these data were used to calculate gross bacterial growth rates in the presence of grazers. A mass balance approach was used to estimate reduced nitrogen regenerated by the protist and nitrogen demand of the heterotrophic bacteria. These independent methods of assessing grazer growth and feeding, coupled with estimates of flagellate gross growth efficiency, provided strong, internally consistent constraints on the estimates of bacterial growth rates in the presence of grazers. Under these culture conditions, P. bandaiensis had a carbon-based gross growth efficiency averaging 28%. This work shows that independently measured grazing rates are essential in protist culture work if system dynamics are to be understood. It also underscores the necessity of including protist remineralization pathways in models if realistic simulations are to be obtained.