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Microb Ecol. 1992 Jan;23(1):75-86. doi: 10.1007/BF00165908.

Grazing of acidophilic bacteria by a flagellated protozoan.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, LL57 2UW, Bangor, Gwynedd, UK.


A biflagellated protozoan was isolated from an acidic drainage stream located inside a disused pyrite mine. The stream contained copious amounts of "acid streamer" bacterial growths, and the flagellate was observed in situ apparently grazing the streamer bacteria. The protozoan was obligately acidophilic, growing between pH 1.8 and 4.5, but not at pH 1.6 or 5.0, with optimum growth between pH 3 and 4. It was highly sensitive to copper, molybdenum, silver, and uranium, but tolerated ferrous and ferric iron up to 50 and 25 mM, respectively. In the laboratory, the protozoan was found to graze a range of acidophilic bacteria, including the chemolithotrophs Thiobacillus ferrooxidans, Leptospirillum ferrooxidans, and the heterotroph Acidiphilium cryptum. Thiobacillus thiooxidans and Thiobacillus acidophilus were not grazed. Filamentous growth of certain acidophiles afforded some protection against being grazed by the flagellate. In mixed cultures of T. ferrooxidans and L. ferrooxidans, the protozoan isolate displayed preferential grazing of the former. The possibility of using acidophilic protozoa as a means of controlling bacteria responsible for the production of acid mine drainage is discussed.


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