Diel migrations of microorganisms within a benthic, hypersaline mat community

F. Garcia-Pichel, M. Mechling, R. W. Castenholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


We studied the diel migrations of several species of microorganisms in a hypersaline, layered microbial mat. The migrations were quantified by repeated coring of the mat with glass capillary tubes. The resulting minicores were microscopically analyzed by using bright-field and epifluorescence (visible and infrared) microscopy to determine depths of coherent layers and were later dissected to determine direct microscopic counts of microorganisms. Microelectrode measurements of oxygen concentration, fiber optic microprobe measurements of light penetration within the mat, and incident irradiance measurements accompanied the minicore sampling. In addition, pigment content, photosynthesis and irradiance responses, the capacity for anoxygenic photosynthesis, and gliding speeds were determined for the migrating cyanobacteria. Heavily pigmented Oscillatoria sp. and Spirulina cf. subsalsa migrated downward into the mat during the early morning and remained deep until dusk, when upward migration occurred. The mean depth of the migration (not more than 0.4 to 0.5 mm) was directly correlated with the incident irradiance over the mat surface. We estimated that light intensity at the upper boundary of the migrating cyanobacteria was attenuated to such an extent that photoinhibition was effectively avoided but that intensities which saturated photosynthesis were maintained through most of the daylight hours. Light was a cue of paramount importance in triggering and modulating the migration of the cyanobacteria, even though the migrating phenomenon could not be explained solely in terms of a light response. We failed to detect diel migration patterns for other cyanobacterial species and filamentous anoxyphotobacteria. The sulfide- oxidizing bacterium Beggiatoa sp. migrated as a band that followed low oxygen concentrations within the mat during daylight hours. During the nighttime, part of this population migrated toward the mat surface, but a significant proportion remained deep.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1500-1511
Number of pages12
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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