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ISME J. 2010 Feb;4(2):159-70. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2009.106. Epub 2009 Oct 15.

Bacterial diversity and biogeography in deep-sea surface sediments of the South Atlantic Ocean.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany.


Microbial biogeographic patterns in the deep sea depend on the ability of microorganisms to disperse. One possible limitation to microbial dispersal may be the Walvis Ridge that separates the Antarctic Lower Circumpolar Deep Water from the North Atlantic Deep Water. We examined bacterial communities in three basins of the eastern South Atlantic Ocean to determine diversity and biogeography of bacterial communities in deep-sea surface sediments. The analysis of 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene clone libraries in each basin revealed a high diversity, representing 521 phylotypes with 98% identity in 1051 sequences. Phylotypes affiliated with Gammaproteobacteria, Deltaproteobacteria and Acidobacteria were present in all three basins. The distribution of these shared phylotypes seemed to be influenced neither by the Walvis Ridge nor by different deep water masses, suggesting a high dispersal capability, as also indicated by low distance-decay relationships. However, the total bacterial diversity showed significant differences between the basins, based on 16S rRNA gene sequences as well as on terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism fingerprints. Noticeably, both geographic distance and environmental heterogeneity influenced bacterial diversity at intermediate (10-3000 km) and large scales (>3000 km), indicating a complex interplay of local contemporary environmental effects and dispersal limitation.

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