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Ecology. 2006 Jul;87(7 Suppl):S100-8.

Phylogenetic clustering and overdispersion in bacterial communities.

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School of Aquatic and Fishery Science, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


Very little is known about the structure of microbial communities, despite their abundance and importance to ecosystem processes. Recent work suggests that bacterial biodiversity might exhibit patterns similar to those of plants and animals. However, relative to our knowledge about the diversity of macro-organisms, we know little about patterns of relatedness in free-living bacterial communities, and relatively few studies have quantitatively examined community structure in a phylogenetic framework. Here we apply phylogenetic tools to bacterial diversity data to determine whether bacterial communities are phylogenetically structured. We find that bacterial communities tend to contain lower taxonomic diversity and are more likely to be phylogenetically clustered than expected by chance. Such phylogenetic clustering may indicate the importance of habitat filtering (where a group of closely related species shares a trait, or suite of traits, that allow them to persist in a given habitat) in the assembly of bacterial communities. Microbial communities are especially accessible for phylogenetic analysis and thus have the potential to figure prominently in the integration of evolutionary biology and community ecology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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