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Infect Genet Evol. 2011 Jul;11(5):789-97. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2011.02.001. Epub 2011 Feb 18.

Bacillus taxonomy in the genomic era finds phenotypes to be essential though often misleading.

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Department of Cell & Systems Biology, University of Toronto, 25 Willcocks St, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 3B2.


Bacillus is a diverse bacterial genus characterized by cells growing aerobically and forming dormant endospores. Although Bacillus species were some of the first bacteria ever characterized, their relationships to one another remain enigmatic. The recent deluge of environmental sequencing projects has further complicated our view of Bacillus taxonomy and diversity. In this review we discuss the current state of Bacillus taxonomy and focus on two examples that highlight the ecological diversity found within identical 16S rDNA-based clusters: the identification of ecologically distinct clusters of B. simplex in Evolution Canyons and the demarcation of species in the industrially and medically important B. cereus group. These examples highlight the difficulties of purely 16S rDNA-based taxonomy, emphasizing the need to interpret the massive amounts of molecular data from environmental sequencing projects in a bacterial ecology framework. Such interpretations are likely to reveal ecological diversity within Bacillus that extends beyond that previously imaginable, providing a true picture of Bacillus ecology and evolution.

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