Letter | Published:

Petroleum-degrading achlorophyllous alga Prototheca zopfii


ONE of the objectives of this research programme is to enumerate and identify petroleum-degrading microorganisms occurring in Chesapeake Bay, to assess the potential of these microorganisms to degrade petroleum in vitro and in situ and to determine the types of petroleum degraded1. We are sampling two locations in Chesapeake Bay at monthly intervals. One is Colgate Creek, an oil-contaminated site in Baltimore Harbour, the other is an area south of Parson's Island in Eastern Bay, a non-polluted shellfish harvesting region of Chesapeake Bay. The presence of petroleum in Colgate Creek and its absence in Eastern Bay has been confirmed by computerised low-resolution mass spectrometry analysis of benzene extracts of sediments collected at both sites2,3. We have routinely isolated petroleum-degrading bacteria, yeasts and filamentous fungi from Colgate Creek and Eastern Bay, but during April and May 1973, and again in 1974, an unusual organism, believed to be an algal species, was isolated from sediment of Colgate Creek. Corresponding isolates have not been isolated from Eastern Bay.

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  1. 1

    Walker, J. D., and Colwell, R. R., in API/EPA/USCG Conf. Prevention and Control of Oil Spills, 685–691 (American Petroleum Institute, Washington, DC; 1973).

  2. 2

    Walker, J. D., and Colwell, R. R., Appl. Microbiol., 27, 285–287 (1974).

  3. 3

    Walker, J. D., and Colwell, R. R., Hamming, M. C., and Ford, H. T., Bull. Env. Contam. Toxicol., E 3, 245–248 (1975).

  4. 4

    Walker, J. D., and Colwell, R. R., Microbial. ecol., 1, 63–95 (1974).

  5. 5

    Walker, J. D., and Colwell, R. R., Prog. Water Technol. (in the press).

  6. 6

    Arnold, P., and Ahearn, D. G., Mycologia, 64, 265–275 (1972).

  7. 7

    Nadakavukaren, M. J., and McCracken, D. A., J. Phycol., 9, 113–116 (1973).

  8. 8

    Walker, J. D., and Colwell, R. R., Appl. Microbiol., 28, 1053–1060 (1974).

  9. 9

    Kockova-Kratochvilova, A., Havelkova, M., Z. Allg. Mikrobiol., 14, 123–124 (1974).

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