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Nat Ecol Evol. 2018 Jun;2(6):936-943. doi: 10.1038/s41559-018-0519-1. Epub 2018 Apr 16.

Function and functional redundancy in microbial systems.

Author information

1
Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. louca.research@gmail.com.
2
Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. louca.research@gmail.com.
3
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.
4
Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
5
Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
6
Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
7
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA.
8
Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA.
9
Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
10
Department of Environmental Systems Science, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
11
Department of Environmental Microbiology, Eawag, Dübendorf, Switzerland.
12
Ecosystem Services, Commercialization Platforms, and Entrepreneurship (ECOSCOPE) Training Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
13
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
14
Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
15
Department of Mathematics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Abstract

Microbial communities often exhibit incredible taxonomic diversity, raising questions regarding the mechanisms enabling species coexistence and the role of this diversity in community functioning. On the one hand, many coexisting but taxonomically distinct microorganisms can encode the same energy-yielding metabolic functions, and this functional redundancy contrasts with the expectation that species should occupy distinct metabolic niches. On the other hand, the identity of taxa encoding each function can vary substantially across space or time with little effect on the function, and this taxonomic variability is frequently thought to result from ecological drift between equivalent organisms. Here, we synthesize the powerful paradigm emerging from these two patterns, connecting the roles of function, functional redundancy and taxonomy in microbial systems. We conclude that both patterns are unlikely to be the result of ecological drift, but are inevitable emergent properties of open microbial systems resulting mainly from biotic interactions and environmental and spatial processes.

PMID:
29662222
DOI:
10.1038/s41559-018-0519-1

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