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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Jan 22;99(2):786-90. Epub 2002 Jan 15.

Chemical warfare between microbes promotes biodiversity.

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Theoretical Biology and Ecology Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Eötvös University, H-1117 Budapest, Hungary.


Evolutionary processes generating biodiversity and ecological mechanisms maintaining biodiversity seem to be diverse themselves. Conventional explanations of biodiversity such as niche differentiation, density-dependent predation pressure, or habitat heterogeneity seem satisfactory to explain diversity in communities of macrobial organisms such as higher plants and animals. For a long time the often high diversity among microscopic organisms in seemingly uniform environments, the famous "paradox of the plankton," has been difficult to understand. The biodiversity in bacterial communities has been shown to be sometimes orders of magnitudes higher than the diversity of known macrobial systems. Based on a spatially explicit game theoretical model with multiply cyclic dominance structures, we suggest that antibiotic interactions within microbial communities may be very effective in maintaining diversity.

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