Viruses are hypothesized to cause enhanced diversity in bacterial communities by regulating the outcome of intertaxon competition. However, concomitant documentation of viral and bacterial assemblage composition in oligotrophic waters are rare, particularly in situ over time, and there is almost no information on the temporal variability in virioplankton assemblage composition in oligotrophic water masses. Assemblage composition of viruses (via pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, PFGE) and bacteria (via automated rRNA intergenic spacer analysis, ARISA) was compared during surface lagrangian drifter deployments in the oligotrophic Gulf of Mexico during summer 2001, 2002, and 2003. In vertical profile, viruses and bacteria both had maximum abundances in surface waters, which decreased with depth; however, the richness of their assemblages was not significantly different between depths, suggesting independence of biomass and diversity. Viral assemblages changed rapidly (0.17–0.32 Jaccard index d−1), which was similar to the rate of change in bacterial assemblages reported in surface waters. Patterns of viral and bacterial assemblage composition were significantly related (P<0.001, r=0.58 between node ranks), and both assemblages clustered primarily by year and then by depth. These cultivation-independent observations demonstrate relationships between viral and bacterial assemblages, which are dynamic in patches of open ocean water. Even at the relatively low phylogenetic resolution of the ARISA and PFGE methods, the results support the idea that viruses may influence the species composition of host assemblages.
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