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Nat Commun. 2016 Jun 17;7:11965. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11965.

Microbial interactions lead to rapid micro-scale successions on model marine particles.

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Computational and Systems Biology Graduate Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.
Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, Institute of Environmental Engineering, ETH Zürich, Zürich 8093, Switzerland.
Department of Physics, Physics of Living Systems, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.
Department of Environmental Systems Science, Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH Zürich, Zürich 8092, Switzerland.


In the ocean, organic particles harbour diverse bacterial communities, which collectively digest and recycle essential nutrients. Traits like motility and exo-enzyme production allow individual taxa to colonize and exploit particle resources, but it remains unclear how community dynamics emerge from these individual traits. Here we track the taxon and trait dynamics of bacteria attached to model marine particles and demonstrate that particle-attached communities undergo rapid, reproducible successions driven by ecological interactions. Motile, particle-degrading taxa are selected for during early successional stages. However, this selective pressure is later relaxed when secondary consumers invade, which are unable to use the particle resource but, instead, rely on carbon from primary degraders. This creates a trophic chain that shifts community metabolism away from the particle substrate. These results suggest that primary successions may shape particle-attached bacterial communities in the ocean and that rapid community-wide metabolic shifts could limit rates of marine particle degradation.

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