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Phylogenetic characterisation of bacterial assemblages and the role of sulphur-cycle bacteria in an Arenicola marina bioturbated mesocosm

Lookup NU author(s): Elizabeth Ashforth, Emeritus Professor Peter Olive, Emeritus Professor Alan Ward


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A culture-independent analysis of the bacterial assemblages in the sediments of a lugworm Arenicola marina L. bioturbated mesocosm was carried out using a molecular RNA-gene based approach. Clone libraries were constructed for 4 spatial locations in the mesocosm: deep yeast layer (DYL), mid sand (MS), new casts (NC) and old casts (OC) after 29 d of bioturbation. In total, 495 clones were analysed and grouped into 159 unique phylotypes. All libraries were dominated by Epsilonproteobacteria, with Alpha-, Delta-and Gammaproteobacteria, Verrucomicrobia and members of the Cytophaga-Flavobacteria-Bacteroides group also prevalent. Phyologenetic comparison of the sites with respect to evolutionary distance showed that the libraries fell into 2 groups: (1) DYL and MS and (2) NC and OC. There were significant differences in species composition between but not within the 2 groupings. Bacteria involved with sulphur cycling are most likely to be affected by lugworm bioturbation. An Epsilonproteobacterium phylotype with >95% 16S similarity to Sulfurimonas denitrificans was abundant in the DYL sand layer but was not present in the egested sand (NC, OC). Promotion of the growth of sulphide-oxidising bacteria and their subsequent digestion would be consistent with the 'gardening' hypothesis and suggests that chemoautotrophic processes in shallow-water anaerobic sediments may be enhanced by the activities of the lugworm.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ashforth EJ, Olive PJW, Ward AC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Marine Ecology - Progress Series

Year: 2011

Volume: 439

Pages: 19-30

Print publication date: 20/10/2011

ISSN (print): 0171-8630

ISSN (electronic): 1616-1599

Publisher: Inter-Research


DOI: 10.3354/meps09302


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