Niche Separation Increases With Genetic Distance Among Bloom-Forming Cyanobacteria.

Research paper by Nicolas N Tromas, Zofia E ZE Taranu, Bryan D BD Martin, Amy A Willis, Nathalie N Fortin, Charles W CW Greer, B Jesse BJ Shapiro

Indexed on: 11 Apr '18Published on: 11 Apr '18Published in: Frontiers in microbiology


Bacterial communities are composed of distinct groups of potentially interacting lineages, each thought to occupy a distinct ecological niche. It remains unclear, however, how quickly niche preference evolves and whether more closely related lineages are more likely to share ecological niches. We addressed these questions by following the dynamics of two bloom-forming cyanobacterial genera over an 8-year time-course in Lake Champlain, Canada, using 16S amplicon sequencing and measurements of several environmental parameters. The two genera, () and (), are frequently observed simultaneously during bloom events and thus have partially overlapping niches. However, the extent of their niche overlap is debated, and it is also unclear to what extent niche partitioning occurs among strains within each genus. To identify strains within each genus, we applied minimum entropy decomposition (MED) to 16S rRNA gene sequences. We confirmed that at a genus level, and have different preferences for nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations. Within each genus, we also identified strains differentially associated with temperature, precipitation, and concentrations of nutrients and toxins. In general, niche similarity between strains (as measured by co-occurrence over time) declined with genetic distance. This pattern is consistent with habitat filtering - in which closely related taxa are ecologically similar, and therefore tend to co-occur under similar environmental conditions. In contrast with this general pattern, similarity in certain niche dimensions (notably particulate nitrogen and phosphorus) did not decline linearly with genetic distance, and instead showed a complex polynomial relationship. This observation suggests the importance of processes other than habitat filtering - such as competition between closely related taxa, or convergent trait evolution in distantly related taxa - in shaping particular traits in microbial communities.