Contrasting microbial community assembly hypotheses: a reconciling tale from the Rio Tinto.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:The Río Tinto (RT) is distinguished from other acid mine drainage systems by its natural and ancient origins. Microbial life from all three domains flourishes in this ecosystem, but bacteria dominate metabolic processes that perpetuate environmental extremes. While the patchy geochemistry of the RT likely influences the dynamics of bacterial populations, demonstrating which environmental variables shape microbial diversity and unveiling the mechanisms underlying observed patterns, remain major challenges in microbial ecology whose answers rely upon detailed assessments of community structures coupled with fine-scale measurements of physico-chemical parameters. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:By using high-throughput environmental tag sequencing we achieved saturation of richness estimators for the first time in the RT. We found that environmental factors dictate the distribution of the most abundant taxa in this system, but stochastic niche differentiation processes, such as mutation and dispersal, also contribute to observed diversity patterns. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:We predict that studies providing clues to the evolutionary and ecological processes underlying microbial distributions will reconcile the ongoing debate between the Baas Becking vs. Hubbell community assembly hypotheses.
Project description:The human microbiome project (HMP) has made it possible to test important ecological theories for arguably the most important ecosystem to human health-the human microbiome. Existing limited number of studies have reported conflicting evidence in the case of the neutral theory; the present study aims to comprehensively test the neutral theory with extensive HMP datasets covering all five major body sites inhabited by the human microbiome. Utilizing 7437 datasets of bacterial community samples, we discovered that only 49 communities (less than 1%) satisfied the neutral theory, and concluded that human microbial communities are not neutral in general. The 49 positive cases, although only a tiny minority, do demonstrate the existence of neutral processes. We realize that the traditional doctrine of microbial biogeography "Everything is everywhere, but the environment selects" first proposed by Baas-Becking resolves the apparent contradiction. The first part of Baas-Becking doctrine states that microbes are not dispersal-limited and therefore are neutral prone, and the second part reiterates that the freely dispersed microbes must endure selection by the environment. Therefore, in most cases, it is the host environment that ultimately shapes the community assembly and tip the human microbiome to niche regime.
Project description:The spatial distribution of microbes on our planet is famously formulated in the Baas Becking hypothesis as "everything is everywhere but the environment selects." While this hypothesis does not strictly rule out patterns caused by geographical effects on ecology and historical founder effects, it does propose that the remarkable dispersal potential of microbes leads to distributions generally shaped by environmental factors rather than geographical distance. By constructing sequence similarity networks from uncultured environmental samples, we show that microbial gene pool distributions are not influenced nearly as much by geography as ecology, thus extending the Bass Becking hypothesis from whole organisms to microbial genes. We find that gene pools are shaped by their broad ecological niche (such as sea water, fresh water, host, and airborne). We find that freshwater habitats act as a gene exchange bridge between otherwise disconnected habitats. Finally, certain antibiotic resistance genes deviate from the general trend of habitat specificity by exhibiting a high degree of cross-habitat mobility. The strong cross-habitat mobility of antibiotic resistance genes is a cause for concern and provides a paradigmatic example of the rate by which genes colonize new habitats when new selective forces emerge.
Project description:Understanding biotic versus abiotic forces that shape community structure is a fundamental aim of microbial ecology. The acidic and heavy metal extreme Río Tinto (RT) in southwestern Spain provides a rare opportunity to conduct an ecosystem-wide biodiversity inventory at the level of all three domains of life, because diversity there is low and almost exclusively microbial. Despite improvements in high-throughput DNA sequencing, environmental biodiversity studies that use molecular metrics and consider entire ecosystems are rare. These studies can be prohibitively expensive if domains are considered separately, and differences in copy number of eukaryotic ribosomal RNA genes can bias estimates of relative abundances of phylotypes recovered. In this study we have overcome these barriers (1) by targeting all three domains in a single polymerase chain reaction amplification and (2) by using a replicated sampling design that allows for incidence-based methods to extract measures of richness and carry out downstream analyses that address community structuring effects. Our work showed that combined bacterial and archaeal richness is an order of magnitude higher than eukaryotic richness. We also found that eukaryotic richness was highest at the most extreme sites, whereas combined bacterial and archaeal richness was highest at less extreme sites. Quantitative community phylogenetics showed abiotic forces to be primarily responsible for shaping the RT community structure. Canonical correspondence analysis revealed co-occurrence of obligate symbionts and their putative hosts that may contribute to biotic forces shaping community structure and may further provide a possible mechanism for persistence of certain low-abundance bacteria encountered in the RT.
Project description:The Tinto River (Huelva, southwestern Spain) is an extreme environment with a rather constant acidic pH along the entire river and a high concentration of heavy metals. The extreme conditions of the Tinto ecosystem are generated by the metabolic activity of chemolithotrophic microorganisms thriving in the rich complex sulfides of the Iberian Pyrite Belt. Molecular ecology techniques were used to analyze the diversity of this microbial community. The community's composition was studied by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) using 16S rRNA and by 16S rRNA gene amplification. A good correlation between the two approaches was found. Comparative sequence analysis of DGGE bands showed the presence of organisms related to Leptospirillum spp., Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans, Acidiphilium spp., "Ferrimicrobium acidiphilum," Ferroplasma acidiphilum, and Thermoplasma acidophilum. The different phylogenetic groups were quantified by fluorescent in situ hybridization with a set of rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes. More than 80% of the cells were affiliated with the domain Bacteria, with only a minor fraction corresponding to Archaea. Members of Leptospirillum ferrooxidans, Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans, and Acidiphilium spp., all related to the iron cycle, accounted for most of the prokaryotic microorganisms detected. Different isolates of these microorganisms were obtained from the Tinto ecosystem, and their physiological properties were determined. Given the physicochemical characteristics of the habitat and the physiological properties and relative concentrations of the different prokaryotes found in the river, a model for the Tinto ecosystem based on the iron cycle is suggested.
Project description:Arbuscular fungi have a major role in directing the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems yet little is known about their biogeographical distribution. The Baas-Becking hypothesis ('everything is everywhere, but, the environment selects') was tested by investigating the distribution of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) at the landscape scale and the influence of environmental factors and geographical distance in determining community composition. AMF communities in Trifolium repens and Lolium perenne roots were assessed in 40 geographically dispersed sites in Ireland representing different land uses and soil types. Field sampling and laboratory bioassays were used, with AMF communities characterised using 18S rRNA terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism. Landscape-scale distribution of AMF was driven by the local environment. AMF community composition was influenced by abiotic variables (pH, rainfall and soil type), but not land use or geographical distance. Trifolium repens and L. perenne supported contrasting communities of AMF, and the communities colonising each plant species were consistent across pasture habitats and over distance. Furthermore, L. perenne AMF communities grouped by soil type within pasture habitats. This is the largest and most comprehensive study that has investigated the landscape-scale distribution of AMF. Our findings support the Baas-Becking hypothesis at the landscape scale and demonstrate the strong influence the local environment has on determining AMF community composition.
Project description:It has been proposed that Antarctic environments select microorganisms with unique biochemical adaptations, based on the tenet 'Everything is everywhere, but, the environment selects' by Baas-Becking. However, this is a hypothesis that has not been extensively evaluated. This study evaluated the fundamental prediction contained in this hypothesis-in the sense that species are structured in the landscape according to their local habitats-, using as study model the phylogenetic diversity of the culturable bacteria of Fildes Peninsula (King George Island, Antarctica). Eighty bacterial strains isolated from 10 different locations in the area, were recovered. Based on phylogenetic analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences, the isolates were grouped into twenty-six phylotypes distributed in three main clades, of which only six are exclusive to Antarctica. Results showed that phylotypes do not group significantly by habitat type; however, local habitat types had phylogenetic signal, which support the phylogenetic niche conservatism hypothesis and not a selective role of the environment like the Baas-Becking hypothesis suggests. We propose that, more than habitat selection resulting in new local adaptations and diversity, local historical colonization and species sorting (i.e. differences in speciation and extinction rates that arise by interaction of species level traits with the environment) play a fundamental role on the culturable bacterial diversity in Antarctica.
Project description:Microbial populations can be dispersal limited. However, microorganisms that successfully disperse into physiologically ideal environments are not guaranteed to establish. This observation contradicts the Baas-Becking tenet: 'Everything is everywhere, but the environment selects'. Allee effects, which manifest in the relationship between initial population density and probability of establishment, could explain this observation. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that small populations of Vibrio fischeri are subject to an intrinsic demographic Allee effect. Populations subjected to predation by the bacterivore Cafeteria roenbergensis display both intrinsic and extrinsic demographic Allee effects. The estimated critical threshold required to escape positive density-dependence is around 5, 20 or 90 cells ml(-1)under conditions of high carbon resources, low carbon resources or low carbon resources with predation, respectively. This work builds on the foundations of modern microbial ecology, demonstrating that mechanisms controlling macroorganisms apply to microorganisms, and provides a statistical method to detect Allee effects in data.
Project description:The imago and soldier castes of a new Rugitermes Holmgren, 1911 species, R. tinto sp. nov. are described. It is the ninth species of Rugitermes from South America and the first record of this genus from Colombia. Unlike its congeners, the soldier of R. tinto has very dark head capsule pigmentation and acute protuberances projecting from frontolateral ridges.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Environments and their organic content are generally not static and isolated, but in a constant state of exchange and interaction with each other. Through physical or biological processes, organisms, especially microbes, may be transferred between environments whose characteristics may be quite different. The transferred microbes may not survive in their new environment, but their DNA will be deposited. In this study, we compare two environmental sequencing projects to find molecular evidence of transfer of microbes over vast geographical distances. METHODOLOGY: By studying synonymous nucleotide composition, oligomer frequency and orthology between predicted genes in metagenomics data from two environments, terrestrial and aquatic, and by correlating with phylogenetic mappings, we find that both environments are likely to contain trace amounts of microbes which have been far removed from their original habitat. We also suggest a bias in direction from soil to sea, which is consistent with the cycles of planetary wind and water. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the Baas-Becking hypothesis formulated in 1934, which states that due to dispersion and population sizes, microbes are likely to be found in widely disparate environments. Furthermore, the availability of genetic material from distant environments is a possible font of novel gene functions for lateral gene transfer.
Project description:Viral communities are important for ecosystem function as they are involved in critical biogeochemical cycles and controlling host abundance. This study investigates riverine viral communities around a small rural town that influences local water inputs. Myoviridae, Siphoviridae, Phycodnaviridae, Mimiviridae, Herpesviridae, and Podoviridae were the most abundant families. Viral species upstream and downstream of the town were similar, with Synechoccocus phage, salinus, Prochlorococcus phage, Mimivirus A, and Human herpes 6A virus most abundant, contributing to 4.9-38.2% of average abundance within the metagenomic profiles, with Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus present in metagenomes as the expected hosts for the phage. Overall, the majority of abundant viral species were or were most similar to those of marine origin. At over 60 km to the river mouth, the presence of marine communities provides some support for the Baas-Becking hypothesis "everything is everywhere, but, the environment selects." We conclude marine microbial species may occur more frequently in freshwater systems than previously assumed, and hence may play important roles in some freshwater ecosystems within tens to a hundred kilometers from the sea.