Marine bdellovibrios have not previously been reported from the southern hemisphere, and knowledge of their occurrence in marine ecosystems is rudimentary. This study examined quantitative and qualitative aspects of bdellovibrios parasitic to the bacterium Vibrio alginolyticus at each of three representative tropical marine habitats of the Great Barrier Reef. Bdellovibrios were found in the water column throughout a 12 mo period from May 1992 at a sandy beach, a mangrove and a fringing coral reef. Their abundance was correlated with water temperature (P-1) and least abundant at the reef (9.5 ml-1), but there was substantial variability in numbers at all habitats among seasons and months of the year. On some occasions no bdellovibrios were found in replicate samples from the beach and reef habitats, while on others the maximum detectable by the method used (180 ml-1) was sometimes found at the beach and mangrove habitats. Bdellovibrios within each habitat were uniformly distributed among sampling sites (P>0.05). They were more abundant in sub-surface than bottom waters in summer, but the reverse occurred in winter. Midwater samples usually had least bdellovibrios. Bdellovibrio numbers were significantly correlated with those of potential host bacteria—colony-forming bacteria at all habitats and total bacteria at the beach and reef habitats. Strain characteristics, primarily based on host range, indicated qualitative differences in bdellovibrio populations among habitats. Pseudomonas atlantica, P. aeruginosa, P. marina, Cytophaga marinoflava, Vibrio gazogenes, V. mimicus and a Spirillum-like bacterium were not parasitised by bdellovibrios from any habitat. Of the other 25 Vibrio spp. tested, most were parasitised by the majority of bdellovibrio strains from each habitat. Strain differences were principally with respect to parasitism of non-Vibrio bacteria. All strains required Na+ and grew at 35°C, but some failed to grow at 15°C.
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