The symbiotic role of marine microbes on living surfaces

Evelyn Armstrong, Liming Yan, Kenneth G. Boyd, Phillip C. Wright, J. Grant Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

208 Citations (Scopus)


Every surface immersed in the sea rapidly becomes covered with a biofilm. On inanimate surfaces, this is often followed by colonisation by larger organisms, and general macrofouling. On the other hand, the majority of marine organisms remain relatively free from macrofouling, although some may be covered in a thin film of epibiotic bacteria. The role of these bacteria in maintaining the health of the host has received little attention. Here we describe an ecological role for epibiotic bacteria from seaweed surfaces. These epibionts may play a protective role, releasing compounds into the surrounding seawater that help prevent extensive fouling of the surface. These compounds may also have industrial and medical applications. The relative ease of culturing these microbes, compared to other bacteria that produce active compounds suggests seaweed-associated bacteria may be useful in bioprocess applications, such as the production of antimicrobial or antifouling compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-40
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2001


  • Biofilms
  • Cell communication
  • Macroalgae
  • Marine bacteria
  • Symbiosis


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