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Microb Ecol. 1994 Sep;28(2):237-43. doi: 10.1007/BF00166813.

The significance of viruses to mortality in aquatic microbial communities.

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Marine Science Institute, The University of Texas at Austin, P.O. Box 1267, 78373-1267, Port Aransas, Texas, USA.


A variety of approaches including enumeration of visibly infected microbes, removal of viral particles, decay of viral infectivity, and measurements of viral production rates have been used to infer the impact of viruses on microbial mortality. The results are surprisingly consistent and suggest that, on average, about 20% of marine heterotrophic bacteria are infected by viruses and 10-20% of the bacterial community is lysed daily by viruses. The effect of viruses on phytoplankton is less certain, but ca. 3% of Synechococcus biomass may be lysed daily. The fraction of primary productivity this represents depends upon the relative biomass and growth rate of Synechococcus. Virus enrichment experiments suggest that the productivity of eukaryotic phytoplankton would be ca. 2% higher in the absence of viruses. Overall, probably about 2-3% of primary productivity is lost to viral lysis. There is considerable variation about these estimates; however, they represent a starting point for incorporating viral-mediated processes into aquatic ecosystem models.


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