Grazing of protozoa and its effect on populations of aquatic bacteria

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2001 Apr;35(2):113-121. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2001.tb00794.x.


Predation by bacterivorous protists in aquatic habitats can influence the morphological structure, taxonomic composition and physiological status of bacterial communities. The protistan grazing can result in bacterial responses at the community and the species level. At the community level, grazing-induced morphological shifts have been observed, which were directed towards either larger or smaller bacterial sizes or in both directions. Morphological changes have been accompanied by changes in taxonomic community structure and bacterial activity. Responses at the species level vary from species to species. Some taxa have shown a pronounced morphological plasticity and demonstrated complete or partial shifts in size distribution to larger growth forms (filaments, microcolonies). However, other taxa with weak plasticity have shown no ability to reduce grazing mortality through changes in size. The impact of protistan grazing on bacterial communities is based on the complex interplay of several parameters. These include grazing selectivity (by size and other features), differences in sensitivity of bacterial species to grazing, differences in responses of single bacterial populations to grazing (size and physiology), as well as the direct and indirect influence of grazing on bacterial growth conditions (substrate supply) and bacterial competition (elimination of competitors).