Over the past two decades, many reports have revealed the existence of bacteria capable of killing phytoplankton. These algicidal bacteria sometimes increase in abundance concurrently with the decline of algal blooms, suggesting that they may affect algal bloom dynamics. Here, we synthesize the existing knowledge on algicidal bacteria interactions with marine eukaryotic microalgae. We discuss the effectiveness of the current methods to characterize the algicidal phenotype in an ecosystem context. We briefly consider the literature on the phylogenetic identification of algicidal bacteria, their interaction with their algal prey, the characterization of algicidal molecules, and the enumeration of algicidal bacteria during algal blooms. We conclude that, due to limitations of current methods, the evidence for algicidal bacteria causing algal bloom decline is circumstantial. New methods and an ecosystem approach are needed to test hypotheses on the impact of algicidal bacteria in algal bloom dynamics. This will require enlarging the scope of inquiry from its current focus on the potential utility of algicidal bacteria in the control of harmful algal blooms. We suggest conceptualizing bacterial algicidy within the general problem of bacterial regulation of algal community structure in the ocean.
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Vol. 51 • No. 2