Marine snow particles (macroscopic detrital aggregates) were collected from surface waters throughout the western North Atlantic. Counts of phototrophic and heterotrophic picoplankton, phototrophic and heterotrophic nanoplankton, and phototrophic microplankton were made by epifluorescence microscopy. A Most Probable Number culture technique also was used to estimate the density of bacterivorous protozoa. All microbial populations enumerated were highly enriched on macroaggregates relative to their densities in the surrounding water. The degree of enrichment was greater in open ocean environments because microorganisms in the surrounding water were less abundant in the open ocean than in nearshore waters, and also because microbial density on marine snow was greater in the open ocean than in nearshore environments. Material released by ctenophores and appendicularia is a likely source of marine snow since it supported microbial populations of the same order of magnitude as were observed on SCUBA-collected particles. Heterotrophic nanoflagellates dominated the bacterivorous protozoa cultured from macroaggregates and the surrounding water, but dense populations of ciliates and amoebae also were present on particles. Protozoan populations on marine snow were so dense relative to the surrounding water as to suggest that detrital aggregates are responsible for the planktonic existence of some bacterivorous species.