Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Evolutionary arms race between bacteria and their viruses in soil

Date:
December 1, 2009
Source:
NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research)
Summary:
Viruses of soil bacteria (phages) evolve to improve their ability to infect the bacterial hosts that surround them. This is shown in a new study. Phages appear to be better able to infect bacteria from the same small soil sample than bacteria from just a few centimeters away. Evolution can therefore restructure ecosystems on a very small scale.

Viruses of soil bacteria (phages) evolve to improve their ability to infect the bacterial hosts that surround them. This is shown in a new study by Dutch researcher Michiel Vos, published in the journal Science. Phages appear to be better able to infect bacteria from the same small soil sample than bacteria from just a few centimetres away. Evolution can therefore restructure ecosystems on a very small scale.

Working at the University of Oxford, Michiel Vos took 5 lots of 5 samples from an area of soil measuring 25cm by 25cm. From each sample, he isolated Stenotrophomonas bacteria and their associated phages. Phages infect bacteria, proliferate, burst out of the cell and then go on to infect new bacteria. More than a third of the bacteria were found to be sensitive to infection by phages from the same area of soil. Phages can therefore markedly control populations of soil bacteria.

Vos went on to investigate whether the phages were better at infecting their surrounding bacteria than bacteria from a few centimetres (further) away. This turned out to be the case: phages were better at infecting bacteria from the same soil sample than those from other soil samples. In the language of evolutionary ecologists, the phages are 'locally adapted'. Whether the bacteria in turn adapted to the phages (co-evolution) was not investigated in the experiment, but this is quite likely.

This study demonstrates the importance of interactions between different types of soil microbes in structuring of biodiversity. While microorganisms in the soil are tremendously abundant and diverse, and are key to ecosystem functioning, relatively little is known about them -- certainly compared with our knowledge of animals and plants.

The research undertaken by Vos and his colleagues shows that even at a scale of just a few centimetres, populations of microorganisms are not distributed at random. Instead, phages are found alongside the bacteria that they can best infect, by the process of natural selection. This is especially remarkable because tiny and numerous microorganisms could be expected to be easily dispersed, erasing such spatial structure.

The article on this research was published in Science on 14 August 2009. The research was funded by a Rubicon grant from NWO, which Michiel Vos received in 2006.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michiel Vos, Philip J. Birkett, Elizabeth Birch, Robert I. Griffiths, and Angus Buckling. Local Adaptation of Bacteriophages to Their Bacterial Hosts in Soil. Science, 2009; 325 (5942): 833 DOI: 10.1126/science.1174173

Cite This Page:

NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). "Evolutionary arms race between bacteria and their viruses in soil." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091029151437.htm>.
NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). (2009, December 1). Evolutionary arms race between bacteria and their viruses in soil. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091029151437.htm
NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). "Evolutionary arms race between bacteria and their viruses in soil." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091029151437.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins