The abundance and significance of a class of large, transparent organic particles in the ocean

Alice L. Alldredge, Uta Passow, Bruce E. Logan

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Polysaccharide-specific staining techniques reveal the existence and high abundance of a class of large, discrete, transparent particles in seawater and diatom cultures formed from dissolved exopolymers exuded by phytoplankton and bacteria. Transparent exopolymer particles (TEP), ranged from 28 to 5000 particles ml-1 and 3 to 100s μm in longest dimension at five coastal stations off California. A high percentage of seemingly free-living bacteria (28-68%) were attached to these transparent sheets and films, suggesting that they may alter the distributions and microenvironments of marine microbes in nature. Preliminary coagulation experiments demonstrated that TEP are major agents in the aggregation of diatoms and in the formation of marine snow. The existence of microbial exudates acting as large, discrete particles, rather than as dissolved molecules or as coating on other particles, suggests that the transformation of dissolved organic matter into particulate form in the sea can occur via a rapid abiotic pathway as well as through conventional microbial uptake. The existence of these particles has far reaching implications for food web structure, microbial processes, carbon cycling and particulate flux in the ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1131-1140
Number of pages10
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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