DOI: 10.1007/s10144-010-0235-4

Indirect interactions in the microbial world: specificities and similarities to plant–insect systems

1. Institute of Oceanography, National Taiwan University

Correspondence to:
Takeshi Miki



Trophic interactions between bacteria, viruses, and protozoan predators play crucial roles in structuring aquatic microbial communities and regulating microbe-mediated ecosystem functions (biogeochemical processes). In this microbial food web, protozoan predators and viruses share bacteria as a common resource, and protozoan predators can kill viruses [intraguild predation (IGP)] and vice versa, even though these latter processes are probably of less importance. However, protozoan predators (IG predator) and viruses (IG prey) generally occur together in various environments, and this cannot be fully explained by the classic IGP models. In addition, controlled experiments have often demonstrated that protozoan predators have apparently positive effects on viral activity. These surprising patterns can be explained by indirect interactions between them via induced trait changes in bacterial assemblages, which can be compared with trait-mediated indirect interactions (TMIIs) in terrestrial plant–insect systems. Here, we review some trait changes in bacterial assemblages that may positively affect the activities and abundance of viruses. It has been suggested that in bacterial assemblages, protozoan predation may enhance growth conditions for individual bacteria and induce both phenotypic trait changes at the individual (e.g., filament-forming bacteria) and group level as a result of changes in bacterial community composition (e.g., species dominance). We discuss the specificities of aquatic microbial systems and attempt find functional similarities between aquatic microbial systems and terrestrial plant–insect systems with regard to TMII function.

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