Copepods promote bacterial community changes in surrounding seawater through farming and nutrient enrichment
Bacteria living in the oligotrophic open ocean have various ways to survive under the pressure of nutrient limitation. Copepods, an abundant portion of the mesozooplankton, release nutrients through excretion and sloppy feeding that can support growth of surrounding bacteria. We conducted incubation experiments in the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre to investigate the response of bacterial communities in the presence of copepods. Bacterial community composition and abundance measurements indicate that copepods have the potential to influence the microbial communities surrounding and associating with them – their ‘zoosphere’, in two ways. First, copepods may attract and support the growth of copiotrophic bacteria including representatives of Vibrionaceae, Oceanospirillales and Rhodobacteraceae in waters surrounding them. Second, copepods appear to grow specific groups of bacteria in or on the copepod body, particularly Flavobacteriaceae and Pseudoalteromonadaceae, effectively ‘farming’ them and subsequently releasing them. These distinct mechanisms provide a new view into how copepods may shape microbial communities in the open ocean. Microbial processes in the copepod zoosphere may influence estimates of oceanic bacterial biomass and in part control bacterial community composition and distribution in seawater.
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- Environmental Microbiology