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The early stages of culture of the Chilean scallop Argopecten purpuratus are affected by the mortality attributed to the presence of pathogenic bacteria. The purpose of this study was to characterize the culturable bacteria present in larval cultures of A. purpuratus in the presence and absence of antibiotic (Tetracycline). Bacterial counts on marine agar from water, algal, and larval samples from the culture units were carried out. These counts were performed every three days during 20 days of incubation. The bacterial strains isolated from count plates were identified by 16S rDNA gene sequence analysis. Additionally, the total bacterial counts from culture water were determined by epifluorescence microscopy. Culturable bacterial counts of water samples ranged from 8 × 103 to 3 × 104 CFU mL–1. These counts represent from 3% to 18% of the total bacterial counts. The culturable bacterial counts in larvae were between 3 × 107 and 3 × 108 CFU g–1 and were on average higher in the absence of antibiotic (P < 0.05). Microalgal bacterial counts ranged from 1 × 104 to 9 × 104 CFU mL–1. Of the 46 strains isolated and identified, 25 (54%) belonged to the Gammaproteobacteria, 11 (24%) to the Bacilli, 5 (11%) to the Actinobacteria, 4 (9%) to the Alphaproteobacteria, and 1 (2%) to the Flavobacteria. The most dominant genera in the water samples were Alteromonas, Brevibacterium, Bacillus, Microbacterium, and Marinobacter, while the most dominant genera in larvae were Pseudoalteromonas, Bacillus, Marinobacterium, Alteromonas, and Vibrio, from a total of 15 different bacterial genera identified. The survival of larvae decreased drastically during the 20 days of culture, showing no differences to antimicrobial treatments. The results indicate that there is a high diversity of culturable bacteria present in the larvae, and most are different from those found in the water and microalgae supplied as food.
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