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Diversity and metabolic energy in bacteria

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ben Allen, Dr Rebeca Gonzalez-Cabaleiro, Dr Dana OfiteruORCiD, Professor William Sloan, Donna Swan, Professor Thomas CurtisORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© The Author(s) 2023. Why are some groups of bacteria more diverse than others? We hypothesize that the metabolic energy available to a bacterial functional group (a biogeochemical group or ‘guild’) has a role in such a group’s taxonomic diversity. We tested this hypothesis by looking at the metacommunity diversity of functional groups in multiple biomes. We observed a positive correlation between estimates of a functional group’s diversity and their metabolic energy yield. Moreover, the slope of that relationship was similar in all biomes. These findings could imply the existence of a universal mechanism controlling the diversity of all functional groups in all biomes in the same way. We consider a variety of possible explanations from the classical (environmental variation) to the ‘non-Darwinian’ (a drift barrier effect). Unfortunately, these explanations are not mutually exclusive, and a deeper understanding of the ultimate cause(s) of bacterial diversity will require us to determine if and how the key parameters in population genetics (effective population size, mutation rate, and selective gradients) vary between functional groups and with environmental conditions: this is a difficult task.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Allen B, Gonzalez-Cabaleiro R, Ofiteru ID, Ovreas L, Sloan WT, Swan D, Curtis T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: FEMS Microbiology Letters

Year: 2023

Volume: 370

Online publication date: 16/05/2023

Acceptance date: 15/05/2023

Date deposited: 28/06/2023

ISSN (print): 0378-1097

ISSN (electronic): 1574-6968

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/femsle/fnad043

PubMed id: 37193662


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Funder referenceFunder name
BB/R015031/1Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)