Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Community ecology: For marine microbes, it's not who you are, but what you do

Date:
August 30, 2011
Source:
University of New South Wales
Summary:
When you're a tiny creature in a vast ocean it pays to hang out with the right crowd, regardless of whether they are related to you or not, a new study into the amazingly diverse world of marine microbes has found. For bacteria at least, it seems that what matters more than your species identity is whether you have specific genes that let you work with other species to form a functioning community.

Sea lettuce - home to rich bacterial communities.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of New South Wales

When you're a tiny creature in a vast ocean it pays to hang out with the right crowd, regardless of whether they are related to you or not, a new study into the amazingly diverse world of marine microbes has found.

For bacteria at least, it seems that what matters more than your species identity is whether you have specific genes that let you work with other species to form a functioning community.

The study looked at the rich communities of bacteria that form on the surface of a common seaweed known as sea lettuce (Ulva australis) and found surprisingly large variations in the 400 or so member species that make up each community.

Despite offering the same habitat, each seaweed played host to many different bacterial species, with only about 15% of species in common from community to community.

Despite this great variety and high species diversity within them, each community has similar core functions, such as the ability to attach to the seaweed's surface and gather nutrients from the host, says a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, led by Dr Catherine Burke of the UNSW Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation (CMB) and School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences (BABS).

Genetic studies using high-throughput DNA sequencing confirmed that this likeness in the core functions of the community was not reflected in the identity of the member species of the community. Different species performed the same functions in different communities, because they shared particular genes.

Regardless of whether these genes independently evolved or were swapped between species through a process known as a horizontal gene transfer, possessing them was the key to being able to be part of a particular community.

"I guess this shows that for bacteria it matters less who you are -- that is, your species -- than what you can do and who you hang out with," says co-author Dr Torsten Thomas, a BABS senior lecturer and CMB member.

For ecologists, the finding challenges long-held theoretical ideas about how communities of organisms are established, says co-author Professor Peter Steinberg, Director of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and staff at UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the CMB.

"Species are usually the fundamental unit by which communities are characterised in higher organisms," says Professor Steinberg. "But in these systems the important thing is to know what genes the bacteria have, not what species those genes are packaged in. This flies in the face of a hundred years of studies of the community ecology of higher organisms."

The team also included scientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute and the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. Burke, P. Steinberg, D. Rusch, S. Kjelleberg, T. Thomas. Bacterial community assembly based on functional genes rather than species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1101591108

Cite This Page:

University of New South Wales. "Community ecology: For marine microbes, it's not who you are, but what you do." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110809092108.htm>.
University of New South Wales. (2011, August 30). Community ecology: For marine microbes, it's not who you are, but what you do. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110809092108.htm
University of New South Wales. "Community ecology: For marine microbes, it's not who you are, but what you do." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110809092108.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) A rare, well-preserved skeleton of a woolly mammoth is going on sale at Summers Place Auctions hope the 11.5-foot tall, almost intact specimen will fetch between $245,000 to $409,000. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fox Bites Conn. Student And School Staffers In Rare Attack

Fox Bites Conn. Student And School Staffers In Rare Attack

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) A fox attacked a second-grade boy at a Connecticut elementary school Monday. It also attacked two school staff members and a woman and her dog. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Will Living Glue Be A Thing?

Will Living Glue Be A Thing?

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) Using proteins derived from mussels, engineers at MIT have made a supersticky underwater adhesive. They're now looking to make "living glue." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tiger Kills Man at India Zoo

Raw: Tiger Kills Man at India Zoo

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) A white tiger killed a young man who climbed over a fence at the New Delhi zoo and jumped into the animal's enclosure on Tuesday, a spokesman said. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
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