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Free Content Role of Bacteria in Copepod Fecal Pellet Decomposition: Colonization, Growth Rates and Mineralization

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Freshly egested fecal pellets from Calanus pacificus were rapidly colonized by free bacteria found in seawater. In 24 h, bacteria covered 27% of the available area of the fecal pellet. Bacterial concentrations reached 1 × 105 cells per fecal pellet (average volume of pellet 3 × 106 μm3) after 24 h of incubation. The number of bacteria associated with the fecal pellet then steadily declined to 1 × 104 cells per fecal pellet in 4 days. The sinking of fecal pellets through a column of seawater increased the rate of initial colonization. The growth rates of bacteria associated with fecal pellets and those free in the water were not significantly different. Bacteria in 1 μm filtrates of seawater mineralized copepod fecal pellet carbon to CO2 at 0.5% day–1. Inclusion of microzooplankton (35 μm filtrate) doubled the rate of mineralization. If our laboratory results can be extrapolated to the natural environment, they would suggest that bacteria colonizing fecal pellets in the euphotic zone may not be the major group responsible for carbon mineralization in the upper 300 m of the water column.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 1984

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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