Grazing of the copepod Diaptomus connexus on purple sulphur bacteria in a meromictic salt lake

Overmann, J.; Hall, K.J.; Northcote, T.G.; Beatty, J.T.

Environmental Microbiology 1(3): 213-221


ISSN/ISBN: 1462-2912
PMID: 11207740
DOI: 10.1046/j.1462-2920.1999.00026.x
Accession: 046190064

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A meromictic lake ecosystem (Mahoney Lake, BC, Canada) was investigated to elucidate the significance of chemocline bacteria in the total carbon cycle under natural conditions. In this lake, primary production by oxygenic phototrophs was insufficient to support the observed net secondary production of the calanoid copepod Diaptomus connexus and the rotifer Brachionus plicatilis, indicating the presence of additional food sources for consumers. Mahoney Lake harbours the densest population of phototrophic sulphur bacteria ever reported in a natural body of water. This layer is located at the interface between oxic and anoxic water layers and is dominated by the purple sulphur bacterium Amoebobacter purpureus. The transfer rates of A. purpureus carbon to D. connexus determined in stratified mesocosms were very low (0.71 ngC copepod(-1) day(-1)) and accounted for only 0.6% of the observed net biomass increase in the zooplankter. Stable stratification within the mesocosms prevented an upwelling of A. purpureus into the oxic part. However, measurements of carbon fluxes, infrared fluorescence microscopy and stable carbon analysis provided cumulative evidence that, under in situ conditions, the cell carbon of purple sulphur bacteria indeed enters the aerobic food chain via the grazing activity of D. connexus. Based on a two-source isotopic mixing model, A. purpureus represents at least 75-85% of the diet of D. connexus. Autumnal upwelling into oxic water layers and aggregation of A. purpureus cells appear to be the main factors determining the high carbon flux from purple sulphur bacteria to zooplankton under natural conditions, and most probably also play a key role in other aquatic ecosystems. Through this pathway, over 53% of the reduced organic matter of purple sulphur bacteria trapped in anoxic bottom waters is returned to the oxic realm.