Incorporation of bacterial extracellular polysaccharide by black fly larvae (Simuliidae)

Carol A. Couch, Judy L. Meyer, Robert O. Hall

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40 Scopus citations


Black fly larvae (Simulium) assimilated, with high efficiency (80-90%), bacterial extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) extracted from laboratory cultures of a pseudomonad isolated from the Ogeechee River. Incorporation was traced using 13C-labelled EPS offered to larvae as a coating on a mixture of 1-μm latex beads and kaolin particles. These EPS-coated particles were used to simulate natural particles, both living and dead. Solubility, protein, and nitrogen content of the EPS suggested it was a slime rather than a capsular polysaccharide. Glycosyl composition of the EPS was glucose and galactose in α and β linkages, with pyruvate, succinate, and possibly malonate constituent groups. To evaluate the incorporation of C derived from protein associated with the EPS matrix, feeding experiments were conducted using EPS with and without proteins extracted. Black fly larvae incorporated 7.2 μg EPS C larva-1 d-1 from EPS that did not have proteins extracted, and 19.5 μg EPS C larva-1 d-1 from EPS with proteins extracted. Carbon in protein that is typically associated with EPS was not solely or selectively incorporated. EPS incorporation rates are similar to rates of cellular bacterial carbon incorporation previously estimated for Ogeechee River black fly larvae. If EPS is generally available as a food resource, the importance of bacteria in detrital food webs may be underestimated by studies that examine only the consumption of bacterial cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-299
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the North American Benthological Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1996


  • Simuliidae
  • assimilation
  • extracellular polysaccharide
  • microbial loop
  • stable isotope


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