Microscale Nutrient Patches in Planktonic Habitats Shown by Chemotactic Bacteria

Science  18 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5397, pp. 2254-2256
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5397.2254

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Are nutrients available to microbial communities in micropatches long enough to influence growth and competition? And what are the sources of such patches? To answer these questions, the swimming behavior of chemotactic bacteria in seawater samples was examined. Clusters of bacteria formed in conjunction with cell lysis and excretion by protozoa. These point sources of nutrients spread into spherical patches a few millimeters in diameter and sustained swarms of bacteria for about 10 minutes. Within that time, a large proportion of the nutrients was encountered by bacteria, chemotactic and nonchemotactic alike. Chemotaxis is advantageous for bacteria using patches over a certain size.

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