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The impact of phages on interspecific competition in experimental populations of bacteria

Brockhurst, Michael A; Fenton, Andrew; Roulston, Barrie and Rainey, Paul B (2006) The impact of phages on interspecific competition in experimental populations of bacteria. BMC Ecology, 6 . Article Number: 19. ISSN 1472-6785

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.



Background: Phages are thought to play a crucial role in the maintenance of diversity in natural bacterial communities. Theory suggests that phages impose density dependent regulation on bacterial populations, preventing competitive dominants from excluding less competitive species. To test this, we constructed experimental communities containing two bacterial species (Pseudomonas fluorescens and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) and their phage parasites. Communities were propagated at two environmental temperatures that reversed the outcome of competition in the absence of phage. Results: The evenness of coexistence was enhanced in the presence of a phage infecting the superior competitor and in the presence of phage infecting both competitors. This occurred because phage altered the balance of competitive interactions through reductions in density of the superior competitor, allowing concomitant increases in density of the weaker competitor. However, even coexistence was not equally stable at the two environmental temperatures. Conclusion: Phage can alter competitive interactions between bacterial species in a way that is consistent with the maintenance of coexistence. However, the stability of coexistence is likely to depend upon the nature of the constituent bacteria-bacteriophage interactions and environmental conditions.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Published: 13 December 2006. 7 pages (page numbers not for citation purposes).
Uncontrolled Keywords:Pseudomonas fluorescens; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; bacterial communities; bacteria-bacteriophage
Subjects:Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Departments, Research Centres and Related Units:Academic Faculties, Institutes and Research Centres > Faculty of Science > Department of Biological Sciences
Publisher's Statement:© 2006 Brockhurst et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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ID Code:753
Deposited On:27 Jun 2008 16:38
Last Modified:19 May 2011 20:39

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