Are grazer-induced adaptations of bacterial abundance and morphology timedependent?
AbstractPredation by protists is a well known force that shapes bacterial communities and can lead to filamentous forms and aggregations of large cell clusters. These classic resistance strategies were observed as a direct consequence of predation by heteroand mixotrophic flagellates (the main group of bacteria predators in water) on natural assemblages of bacteria and on single plastic strains. Recently it was shown that a long time exposure (about 30 days) of a bacterial strain, characterized by high degree of phenotypic plasticity, to flagellates, without direct predation, enhanced the formation of resistant forms (filaments) in a continuous culture system. Target prey populations and predators were separated by a dialysis membrane. Moreover, the positive impact on bacterial growth, due to the chemical excretes released by flagellates was demonstrated for exudates of photosynthetic activity. The same positive impact may also be seen in response to exudates related to grazing. In this study, two short-term experiments (<100 hours) were conducted to test for modifications in the morphology and productivity of three different bacterial strains that were induced by the presence of active predators, but without direct predation. The growth and morphological distribution of each of the selected strains was tested separately using batch cultures. Cultures were either enriched with carbon in the presence or absence of flagellate predators, or included pre-filtered exudates from flagellate activity. In a second experiment, bottles were provided with a central dialysis bag that contained active flagellates, and were inoculated with the selected bacterial strains. In this way, bacteria were exposed to the presence of predators without direct predation. The bacterial strains used in this experience were characterised by a high degree of phenotypic plasticity and exhibited different successful strategies of resistance against grazing. The flagellates selected as predators belong to two voracious species: Spumella sp. and Ochromonas sp., strictly heterotrophic and mixotrophic, respectively. For all the treatments, it was impossible to find any clear evidence of a morphological adaptation stimulated by the mere presence of flagellates. On the other hand, for all bacterial strains the enrichment of the media due to the release of exudates, resulted in higher growth rates and higher abundances, confirming that grazers are fundamental actors involved in the inner recycling of the microbial loop.
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