The effects of agar concentration on the growth and morphology of submerged colonies of motile and non-motile bacteria


Dr J. W. T. Wimpenny School of Pure and Applied Biology, University of Wales College of Cardiff, Museum Avenue, Cardiff CF1 3TL, UK (e-mail


The growth and morphology of submerged bacterial colonies was investigated. Five separate colonial forms were recognized depending both on species and on agar concentration. These were (i) branched, dendritic structures seen only with Bacillus cereus; (ii) lenticular colonies for all other species at high agar concentrations; (iii) small lobed to spherical colonies for non-motile organisms at low agar concentrations; (iv) and (v) large diffuse spherical colonies which can be further subdivided into ‘snowball’ or ‘wispy’ types for motile bacteria growing at agar concentrations below about 0·65% w/v. Viable count determinations suggested that agar concentration had little effect in the early stages of growth but that motile cells at low agar concentrations achieved higher cell numbers than did those in concentrations greater than 0·65% w/v. Transmission electron microscopy indicated that bacteria in lenticular colonies were tightly packed within lens-shaped splits in the agar whilst at low agar concentrations motile cells were well separated and appeared to move through the agar matrix.