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ISME J. 2013 Jul;7(7):1274-85. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.19. Epub 2013 Feb 28.

Short-term observations of marine bacterial and viral communities: patterns, connections and resilience.

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University of Southern California, Department of Biological Sciences, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA.


Observation of short-term temporal variation in bacterial and viral communities is important for understanding patterns of aquatic microbial diversity. We collected surface seawater once daily for 38 consecutive days with seven more samples interspersed over 40 more days at one location ∼2 km from Santa Catalina Island, California. Bacterial communities were analyzed by automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) and viral communities were analyzed by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP) of the conserved T4-like myoviral gene encoding the major capsid protein (g23). Common bacterial and viral taxa were consistently dominant, and relatively few displayed dramatic increases/decreases or 'boom/bust' patterns that might be expected from dynamic predator-prey interactions. Association network analysis showed most significant covariations (associations) occurred among bacterial taxa or among viral taxa and there were several modular (highly-interconnected) associations (P≤0.005). Associations observed between bacteria and viruses (P≤0.005) occurred with a median time lag of 2 days. Regression of all pairwise Bray-Curtis similarities between samples indicated a rate of bacterial community change that slows from 2.1%-0.18% per day over a week to 2 months; the rate stays around 0.4% per day for viruses. Our interpretation is that, over the scale of days, individual bacterial and viral OTUs can be dynamic and patterned; resulting in statistical associations regarded as potential ecological interactions. However, over the scale of weeks, average bacterial community variation is slower, suggesting that there is strong community-level ecological resilience, that is, a tendency to converge towards a 'mean' microbial community set by longer-term controlling factors.

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