Coexistence of Organisms Competing for the Same Substrate: An Example Among the Purple Sulfur Bacteria

Hans van Gemerden*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    The purpose of this study was to find a possible explanation for the coexistence of large and small purple sulfur bacteria in natural habitats. Experiments were carried out with Chromatium vinosum SMG 185 and Chromatium weissei SMG 171, grown in both batch and continuous cultures. The data may be summarized as follows: (a) In continuous light, with sulfide as growth rate-limiting substrate, the specific growth rate of Chr. vinosum exceeds that of Chr. weissei regardless of the sulfide concentration employed. Consequently, Chr. weissei is unable to compete successfully and is washed out in continuous cultures. (b) With intermittant light-dark illumination, the organisms showed balanced coexistence when grown in continuous cultures. The "steady-state" abundance of Chr. vinosum was found to be positively related to the length of the light period, and that of Chr. weissei to the length of the dark period. (c) Sulfide added during darkness is rapidly oxidized on subsequent illumination, resulting in the intracellular storage of reserve substances, which axe later utilized for growth. The rate of sulfide oxidation/mg cell N/hr was found to be over twice as high in Chr. weissei as in Chr. vinosum. The observed coexistence may be explained as follows. In the light, with both strains growing, most of the sulfide will be oxidized by Chr. vinosum [see (a)]. In the dark, sulfide accumulates. On illumination, the greater part of the accumulated sulfide will be oxidized by Chr. weissei [see (c)]. A changed fight-dark regimen should then have the effect as observed [see (b)]. These observations suggest that intermittant illumination may, at least in part, explain the observed coexistence of both types of purple sulfur bacteria in nature.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)104-119
    Number of pages16
    JournalMicrobial ecology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Dec-1974

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