Biology and Potential Biogeochemical Impacts of Novel Predatory Flavobacteria

Erin Banning, Ph.D., 2010
Elizabeth Kujawinski and Karen Casciotti, Advisors

Predatory bacteria are ubiquitous in aquatic environments and may be important players in the ecology and biogeochemistry of microbial communities. Three novel strains belonging to two genera of marine flavobacteria, Olleya and Tenacibaculum, were cultured from coastal sediments and found to be predatory on other bacteria on surfaces. Two described species of the genus Tenacibaculum were also observed to grow by lysis of prey bacteria, raising the possibility that predation may be a widespread lifestyle amongst marine flavobacteria, which are diverse and abundant in a variety of marine environments. Strains from the two genera were found to exhibit divergent prey specificities and predatory growth yields. An investigation of the minimum number of predatory cells needed to generate clearings of prey cells found that the inoculation of individual predatory flavobacteria cells can result in dense lytic swarms. A novel methodology for the experimental study of biofilms was used to assess the impact of exposure to predatory marine flavobacteria on the release of macronutrients from prey biofilms. The Olleya sp. predator had a stimulative effect on macronutrient release while the Tenacibaculum sp. did not, further suggesting the two groups of predators are adapted to different ecological niches.