Soil is a microenvironment with a fragmented (patchy) spatial structure in which many bacterial species interact. Here, we explore the interaction between the predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus and its prey Escherichia coli in microfabricated landscapes. We ask how fragmentation influences the prey dynamics at the microscale and compare two landscape geometries: a patchy landscape and a continuous landscape. By following the dynamics of prey populations with high spatial and temporal resolution for many generations, we found that the variation in predation rates was twice as large in the patchy landscape and the dynamics was correlated over shorter length scales. We also found that while the prey population in the continuous landscape was almost entirely driven to extinction, a significant part of the prey population in the fragmented landscape persisted over time. We observed significant surface-associated growth, especially in the fragmented landscape and we surmise that this sub-population is more resistant to predation. Our results thus show that microscale fragmentation can significantly influence bacterial interactions.
- Received September 7, 2015.
- Accepted January 18, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.