Although temperature is a key parameter controlling the activity and growth of all microorganisms, information about how water temperature may structure the bacterioplankton community is not consistent. We examined the relationship between temperature and the community composition, cell volume, and morphology of marine bacterioplankton in 4 continuous cultures harbouring multispecies communities. All 4 cultures were maintained at a turnover time of 0.04 h(-1) but at different temperatures of 10, 15, 20, and 25 degrees C. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analyses showed that the community composition shifted in response to temperature. Cell volumes were determined from digital photomicrographs using an image analysis program, which also allowed the identification of 3 morphological types of bacteria: cocci-, rod-, and vibrio-shaped bacteria. Mean bacterial cell volume decreased with increasing temperature, e.g., by 39% when the temperature was increased from 10 degrees C to 20 degrees C. When the temperature increased, the bacterial morphology also shifted from dominance by rod- and vibrio-shaped bacteria to dominance by coccoid bacteria. The results clearly indicate the potential role of temperature in driving the community succession of bacterioplankton and in selecting for smaller cells at higher temperatures.