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Commun Integr Biol. 2010 Nov;3(6):491-4. doi: 10.4161/cib.3.6.12975. Epub 2010 Nov 1.

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Department of Limnology of Stratified Lakes; Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries; Stechlin, Germany.


Despite recent advances and new applications of molecular and biogeochemical methodology in aquatic microbial ecology, our perception of the aquatic microbial world remains one dominated by "free-living" bacteria that account for most of the microbial activities in the pelagic zone. Recent research has, however, shown that there exist vast and hidden "microbial networks" within the water column, connected via various microhabitats such as aggregates, fecal pellets and higher organisms. Bacterial abundance within these networks may rival or exceed that of the "free-living" bacteria. Hence, what we have learned in traditional aquatic microbial ecology represents merely a fraction of the microbial world. Within these networks a bacterium can travel long distances, communicate and closely interact with other bacteria and efficiently exchange genetic information with one another. The presence of microbial networks within the water column demands better sampling strategies and a new way to understand bacterial ecology, evolution and functions within the broader context of systems biology.


aquatic ecosystems; bacteria; interactions; microbial networks; microhabitats

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