Halobacteriovorax, an Underestimated Predator on Bacteria: Potential Impact Relative to Viruses on Bacterial Mortality

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Predation on bacteria and accompanying mortality are important mechanisms in controlling bacterial populations and recycling of nutrients through the microbial loop. The agents most investigated and seen as responsible for bacterial mortality are viruses and protists. However, a body of evidence suggests that predatory bacteria such as the Halobacteriovorax (formerly Bacteriovorax), a Bdellovibrio-like organism, contribute substantially to bacterial death. Until now, conclusive evidence has been lacking. The goal of this study was to better understand the contributors to bacterial mortality by addressing the poorly understood role of Halobacteriovorax and how their role compares with that of viruses. The results revealed that when a concentrated suspension of Vibrio parahaemolyticus was added into microcosms of estuarine waters, the native Halobacteriovorax were the predators that responded first and most rapidly. Their numbers increased by four orders of magnitude, whereas V. parahaemolyticus prey numbers decreased by three orders of magnitude. In contrast, the extant virus population showed little increase and produced little change in the prey density. An independent experiment with stable isotope probing confirmed that Halobacteriovorax were the predators primarily responsible for the mortality of the V. parahaemolyticus. The results show that Halobacteriovorax have the potential to be significant contributors to bacterial mortality, and in such cases, predation by Halobacteriovorax may be an important mechanism of nutrient recycling. These conclusions add another dimension to bacterial mortality and the recycling of nutrients.

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ISME Journal





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