Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Journal of Plankton Research
Association with resource-rich particles may benefit a number of planktonic species in oligotriphic, open-ocean regimes. This study examined communities of microbes and Zooplankton associated with colonies of the cyanobacterium Trichodesmium spp. in the Sargasso Sea. Trichodesmium colonies and seawater controls were collected near Bermuda using SCUBA during September 1995, and June, July and August 1996. Organisms associated with the colonies and those in the surrounding seawater were enumerated using light and fluorescence microscopy. We found that 85% of the Trichodesmium puff and tuft colonies examined harbored associated organisms. Associated organisms included bacteria (rod and coccoid),fungi, pennate diatoms, centric diatoms, heterotrophic and autotriphic dinoflagellates, chrysophytes, hypotrich ciliates, amoebae, hydroids, juveniles and nauplii of harpacticoid copepods, and juvenile decapods. The most common associates (in addition to bacteria) were dinoflagellates (present in 74% of the colonies examined), amoebae (50%), ciliates (24%), and diatoms (24%). Numbers of bacteria per colony volume averaged 8.2x10(8) bacteria ml(-1) (range = 8.1x10(7) -3.5x10(9) bacteria ml(-1)), and the density of associated microzooplankton and metazoans averaged 6.8x10(4) organisms ml(-1) (range = 0-3.6-10(6) organisms ml-1). Associates of Tichodesmium colonies were enriched by two to five orders of magnitude over plankton in the surrounding water. This unique habitat allows for the association of primarily benthic ciliate, diatom and copepod species and could contribute significantly to plankton heterogeneity in the open-ocean. The distribution of associated organisms was affected by sample characteristics such as colony morphology, mucoid matrix structure and colony integrity. The influence of these factors indicates that succession or competition between heterotrophic microorganisms ultimately determines Tichodesmium microcommunity structure. Similar processes could regulate microbial and metazoan communities associated with other resource-rich microenvironments, such as marine snow particles.
Sheridan, CC; Steinberg, Deborah K.; and Kling, GW, The microbial and metazoan community associated with colonies of Trichodesmium spp.: a quantitative survey (2002). Journal of Plankton Research, 24(9), 913-922.