Killer whales (Orcinus orca) are the most widely distributed marine mammals and have radiated to occupy a range of ecological niches. Disparate sympatric types are found in the North Atlantic, Antarctic and North Pacific oceans, however, little is known about the underlying mechanisms driving divergence. Previous phylogeographic analysis using complete mitogenomes yielded a bifurcating tree of clades corresponding to described ecotypes. However, there was low support at two nodes at which two Pacific and two Atlantic clades diverged. Here we apply further phylogenetic and coalescent analyses to partitioned mitochondrial genome sequences to better resolve the pattern of past radiations in this species. Our phylogenetic reconstructions indicate that in the North Pacific, sympatry between the maternal lineages that make up each ecotype arises from secondary contact. Both the phylogenetic reconstructions and a clinal decrease in diversity suggest a North Pacific to North Atlantic founding event, and the later return of killer whales to the North Pacific. Therefore, ecological divergence could have occurred during the allopatric phase through drift or selection and/or may have either commenced or have been consolidated upon secondary contact due to resource competition. The estimated timing of bidirectional migration between the North Pacific and North Atlantic coincided with the previous inter-glacial when the leakage of fauna from the Indo-Pacific into the Atlantic via the Agulhas current was particularly vigorous.
Ostreococcus tauri, a unicellular marine green alga, is the smallest known free-living eukaryote and is ubiquitous in the surface oceans. The ecological success of this organism has been attributed to distinct low- and high-light-adapted ecotypes existing in different niches at a range of depths in the ocean. Viruses have already been characterized that infect the high-light-adapted strains. Ostreococcus tauri virus (OtV) isolate OtV-2 is a large double-stranded DNA algal virus that infects a low-light-adapted strain of O. tauri and was assigned to the algal virus family Phycodnaviridae, genus Prasinovirus. Our working hypothesis for this study was that different viruses infecting high- versus low-light-adapted O. tauri strains would provide clues to propagation strategies that would give them selective advantages within their particular light niche. Sequence analysis of the 184,409-bp linear OtV-2 genome revealed a range of core functional genes exclusive to this low-light genotype and included a variety of unexpected genes, such as those encoding an RNA polymerase sigma factor, at least four DNA methyltransferases, a cytochrome b5, and a high-affinity phosphate transporter. It is clear that OtV-2 has acquired a range of potentially functional genes from its host, other eukaryotes, and even bacteria over evolutionary time. Such piecemeal accretion of genes is a trademark of large double-stranded DNA viruses that has allowed them to adapt their propagation strategies to keep up with host niche separation in the sunlit layers of the oceanic environment.
Ostreococcus spp. are extremely small unicellular eukaryotic green algae found worldwide in marine environments, and they are susceptible to attacks by a diverse group of large DNA viruses. Several biologically distinct species of Ostreococcus are known and differ in the ecological niches that they occupy: while O. tauri (representing clade C strains) is found in marine lagoons and coastal seas, strains belonging to clade A, exemplified by O. lucimarinus, are present in different oceans. We used laboratory cultures of clonal isolates of these two species to assay for the presence of viruses in seawater samples from diverse locations. In keeping with the distributions of their host strains, we found a decline in the abundance of O. tauri viruses from a lagoon in southwest France relative to the Mediterranean Sea, whereas in the ocean, no O. tauri viruses were detected. In contrast, viruses infecting O. lucimarinus were detected from distantly separated oceans. DNA sequencing, phylogenetic analyses using a conserved viral marker gene, and a Mantel test revealed no relationship between geographic and phylogenetic distances in viruses infecting O. lucimarinus.
The spatial distribution of an uncultured clade of marine diazotrophic γ-proteobacteria in the Arabian Sea was investigated by the development of a specific primer pair to amplify an internal fragment of nifH by PCR. These organisms were most readily detected in highly oligotrophic surface waters but could also be found in deeper waters below the nutricline. nifH transcripts originating from this clade were detected in oligotrophic surface waters and, in addition, in the deeper and the more productive near-coastal waters. The nifH sequences most closely related to the unidentified marine bacterial group are from environmental clones amplified from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. These findings suggest that these γ-proteobacteria are widespread and likely to be an important component of the heterotrophic diazotrophic microbial community of the tropical and subtropical oceans.
Marine Synechococcus is a globally significant genus of cyanobacteria that is comprised of multiple genetic lineages or clades. These clades are thought to represent ecologically distinct units, or ecotypes. Because multiple clades often co-occur together in the oceans, Synechococcus are ideal microbes to explore how closely related bacterial taxa within the same functional guild of organisms co-exist and partition marine habitats. Here we sequenced multiple gene loci from cultured strains to confirm the congruency of clade classifications between the 16S–23S rDNA internally transcribed spacer (ITS), 16S rDNA, narB, ntcA, and rpoC1 loci commonly used in Synechococcus diversity studies. We designed quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays that target the ITS for 10 Synechococcus clades, including four clades, XV, XVI, CRD1, and CRD2, not covered by previous assays employing other loci. Our new qPCR assays are very sensitive and specific, detecting down to tens of cells per ml. Application of these qPCR assays to field samples from the northwest Atlantic showed clear shifts in Synechococcus community composition across a coastal to open-ocean transect. Consistent with previous studies, clades I and IV dominated cold, coastal Synechococcus communities. Clades II and X were abundant at the two warmer, off-shore stations, and at all stations multiple Synechococcus clades co-occurred. qPCR assays developed here provide valuable tools to further explore the dynamics of microbial community structure and the mechanisms of co-existence.
microbial ecology; cyanobacteria; Synechococcus; microbial diversity; quantitative PCR; multiple gene locus phylogeny; biogeography; ecotype
The diversity and abundance of the Bolidophyceae (Heterokonta), a newly described picoplanktonic algal class which is a sister group to the diatoms, was assessed in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and in the Mediterranean Sea by culture isolation, molecular biology techniques, and pigment analyses. Eight strains of Bolidophyceae were isolated in culture from different mesotrophic and oligotrophic areas. The corresponding small subunit (SSU) rRNA gene sequences allowed us to design two probes specific for the Bolidophyceae. These probes have been used in natural samples (i) to selectively amplify and detect Bolidophyceae sequences and (ii) to quantify the relative abundance of Bolidophyceae within the picoeukaryote community. Sequences available to date indicate that the class Bolidophyceae comprises at least three different clades, two corresponding to the previously described species Bolidomonas pacifica and Bolidomonas mediterranea and the third one corresponding to a subspecies of B. pacifica. Amplification of the SSU rRNA gene from natural samples with universal primers and hybridization using a Bolidomonas-specific probe followed by a eukaryote-specific probe allowed us to estimate the contribution of the Bolidophyceae to the eukaryotic DNA in both Pacific and Mediterranean waters to be lower than 1%. Similarly, high-performance liquid chromatography analyses of fucoxanthin, the major carotenoid present in Bolidophyceae, indicated that less than 4% of the total chlorophyll a in the picoplanktonic fraction in the equatorial Pacific was due to Bolidophyceae. Consequently, although strains of Bolidophyceae have been isolated from samples collected at several stations, this new class seems to have been a minor component of the natural picoeukaryotic populations in the ecosystems investigated, at least during the periods sampled.
Summary: Marine picocyanobacteria of the genera Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus numerically dominate the picophytoplankton of the world ocean, making a key contribution to global primary production. Prochlorococcus was isolated around 20 years ago and is probably the most abundant photosynthetic organism on Earth. The genus comprises specific ecotypes which are phylogenetically distinct and differ markedly in their photophysiology, allowing growth over a broad range of light and nutrient conditions within the 45°N to 40°S latitudinal belt that they occupy. Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus are closely related, together forming a discrete picophytoplankton clade, but are distinguishable by their possession of dissimilar light-harvesting apparatuses and differences in cell size and elemental composition. Synechococcus strains have a ubiquitous oceanic distribution compared to that of Prochlorococcus strains and are characterized by phylogenetically discrete lineages with a wide range of pigmentation. In this review, we put our current knowledge of marine picocyanobacterial genomics into an environmental context and present previously unpublished genomic information arising from extensive genomic comparisons in order to provide insights into the adaptations of these marine microbes to their environment and how they are reflected at the genomic level.
The cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus numerically dominates the photosynthetic community in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world's oceans. Six evolutionary lineages of Prochlorococcus have been described, and their distinctive physiologies and genomes indicate that these lineages are “ecotypes” and should have different oceanic distributions. Two methods recently developed to quantify these ecotypes in the field, probe hybridization and quantitative PCR (QPCR), have shown that this is indeed the case. To facilitate a global investigation of these ecotypes, we modified our QPCR protocol to significantly increase its speed, sensitivity, and accessibility and validated the method in the western and eastern North Atlantic Ocean. We showed that all six ecotypes had distinct distributions that varied with depth and location, and, with the exception of the deeper waters at the western North Atlantic site, the total Prochlorococcus counts determined by QPCR matched the total counts measured by flow cytometry. Clone library analyses of the deeper western North Atlantic waters revealed ecotypes that are not represented in the culture collections with which the QPCR primers were designed, explaining this discrepancy. Finally, similar patterns of relative ecotype abundance were obtained in QPCR and probe hybridization analyses of the same field samples, which could allow comparisons between studies.
A novel high-light (HL)-adapted Prochlorococcus clade was discovered in high nutrient and low chlorophyll (HNLC) waters in the South Pacific Ocean by phylogenetic analyses of 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and 16S–23S internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences. This clade, named HNLC fell within the HL-adapted Prochlorococcus clade with sequences above 99% similarity to one another, and was divided into two subclades, HNLC1 and HNLC2. The distribution of the whole HNLC clade in a northwest to southeast transect in the South Pacific (HNLC-to-gyre) and two 8°N to 8°S transects in the Equatorial Pacific was determined by quantitative PCR using specific primers targeting ITS regions. HNLC was the dominant HL Prochlorococcus clade (2–9% of bacterial 16S rRNA genes) at the three westernmost stations in the South Pacific but decreased to less than 0.1% at the other stations being replaced by the eMIT9312 ecotype in the hyperoligotrophic gyre. The highest contributions of HNLC Prochlorococcus in both Equatorial Pacific transects along the latitudinal lines of 170°W and 155°W were observed at the southernmost stations, reaching 16 and 6% of bacterial 16S rRNA genes, respectively, whereas eMIT9312 dominated near the Equator. Spearman Rank Order correlation analysis indicated that although both the HNLC clade and eMIT9312 were correlated with temperature, they showed different correlations with regard to nutrients. HNLC only showed significant correlations to ammonium uptake and regeneration rates, whereas eMIT9312 was negatively correlated with inorganic nutrients.
16S rRNA; Equatorial Pacific; HNLC; ITS; Prochlorococcus; qPCR
Prasinoviruses infecting unicellular green algae in the order Mamiellales (class Mamiellophyceae) are commonly found in coastal marine waters where their host species frequently abound. We tested 40 Ostreococcus tauri viruses on 13 independently isolated wild-type O. tauri strains, 4 wild-type O. lucimarinus strains, 1 Ostreococcus sp. (“Ostreococcus mediterraneus”) clade D strain, and 1 representative species of each of two other related species of Mamiellales, Bathycoccus prasinos and Micromonas pusilla. Thirty-four out of 40 viruses infected only O. tauri, 5 could infect one other species of the Ostreococcus genus, and 1 infected two other Ostreococcus spp., but none of them infected the other genera. We observed that the overall susceptibility pattern of Ostreococcus strains to viruses was related to the size of two host chromosomes known to show intraspecific size variations, that genetically related viruses tended to infect the same host strains, and that viruses carrying inteins were strictly strain specific. Comparison of two complete O. tauri virus proteomes revealed at least three predicted proteins to be candidate viral specificity determinants.
Forty-four novel strains of Gammaproteobacteria were cultivated from coastal and pelagic regions of the Pacific Ocean using high-throughput culturing methods that rely on dilution to extinction in very low nutrient media. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the isolates fell into five rRNA clades, all of which contained rRNA gene sequences reported previously from seawater environmental gene clone libraries (SAR92, OM60, OM182, BD1-7, and KI89A). Bootstrap analyses of phylogenetic reliability did not support collapsing these five clades into a single clade, and they were therefore named the oligotrophic marine Gammaproteobacteria (OMG) group. Twelve cultures chosen to represent the five clades were successively purified in liquid culture, and their growth characteristics were determined at different temperatures and dissolved organic carbon concentrations. The isolates in the OMG group were physiologically diverse heterotrophs, and their physiological properties generally followed their phylogenetic relationships. None of the isolates in the OMG group formed colonies on low- or high-nutrient agar upon their first isolation from seawater, while 7 of 12 isolates that were propagated for laboratory testing eventually produced colonies on 1/10 R2A agar. The isolates grew relatively slowly in natural seawater media (1.23 to 2.63 day−1), and none of them grew in high-nutrient media (>351 mg of C liter−1). The isolates were psychro- to mesophilic and obligately oligotrophic; many of them were of ultramicrobial size (<0.1 μm3). This cultivation study revealed that sporadically detected Gammaproteobacteria gene clones from seawater are part of a phylogenetically diverse constellation of organisms mainly composed of oligotrophic and ultramicrobial lineages that are culturable under specific cultivation conditions.
Unravelling the genetic structure and phylogeographic patterns of deep-sea sharks is particularly challenging given the inherent difficulty in obtaining samples. The deep-sea shark Centroscymnus crepidater is a medium-sized benthopelagic species that exhibits a circumglobal distribution occurring both in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Oceans. Contrary to the wealth of phylogeographic studies focused on coastal sharks, the genetic structure of bathyal species remains largely unexplored. We used a fragment of the mitochondrial DNA control region, and microsatellite data, to examine genetic structure in C. crepidater collected from the Atlantic Ocean, Tasman Sea, and southern Pacific Ocean (Chatham Rise). Two deeply divergent (3.1%) mtDNA clades were recovered, with one clade including both Atlantic and Pacific specimens, and the other composed of Atlantic samples with a single specimen from the Pacific (Chatham Rise). Bayesian analyses estimated this splitting in the Miocene at about 15 million years ago. The ancestral C. crepidater lineage was probably widely distributed in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Oceans. The oceanic cooling observed during the Miocene due to an Antarctic glaciation and the Tethys closure caused changes in environmental conditions that presumably restricted gene flow between basins. Fluctuations in food resources in the Southern Ocean might have promoted the dispersal of C. crepidater throughout the northern Atlantic where habitat conditions were more suitable during the Miocene. The significant genetic structure revealed by microsatellite data suggests the existence of present-day barriers to gene flow between the Atlantic and Pacific populations most likely due to the influence of the Agulhas Current retroflection on prey movements.
Picocyanobacteria represented by Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus have an important role in oceanic carbon fixation and nutrient cycling. In this study, we compared the community composition of picocyanobacteria from diverse marine ecosystems ranging from estuary to open oceans, tropical to polar oceans and surface to deep water, based on the sequences of 16S-23S rRNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS). A total of 1339 ITS sequences recovered from 20 samples unveiled diverse and several previously unknown clades of Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus. Six high-light (HL)-adapted Prochlorococcus clades were identified, among which clade HLVI had not been described previously. Prochlorococcus clades HLIII, HLIV and HLV, detected in the Equatorial Pacific samples, could be related to the HNLC clades recently found in the high-nutrient, low-chlorophyll (HNLC), iron-depleted tropical oceans. At least four novel Synechococcus clades (out of six clades in total) in subcluster 5.3 were found in subtropical open oceans and the South China Sea. A niche partitioning with depth was observed in the Synechococcus subcluster 5.3. Members of Synechococcus subcluster 5.2 were dominant in the high-latitude waters (northern Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea), suggesting a possible cold-adaptation of some marine Synechococcus in this subcluster. A distinct shift of the picocyanobacterial community was observed from the Bering Sea to the Chukchi Sea, which reflected the change of water temperature. Our study demonstrates that oceanic systems contain a large pool of diverse picocyanobacteria, and further suggest that new genotypes or ecotypes of picocyanobacteria will continue to emerge, as microbial consortia are explored with advanced sequencing technology.
cyanobacteria; Prochlorococcus; Synechococcus; diversity; global ocean; 16S-23S rRNA ITS
SAR11 is an ancient and diverse clade of heterotrophic bacteria that are abundant throughout the world’s oceans, where they play a major role in the ocean carbon cycle. Correlations between the phylogenetic branching order and spatiotemporal patterns in cell distributions from planktonic ocean environments indicate that SAR11 has evolved into perhaps a dozen or more specialized ecotypes that span evolutionary distances equivalent to a bacterial order. We isolated and sequenced genomes from diverse SAR11 cultures that represent three major lineages and encompass the full breadth of the clade. The new data expand observations about genome evolution and gene content that previously had been restricted to the SAR11 Ia subclade, providing a much broader perspective on the clade’s origins, evolution, and ecology. We found small genomes throughout the clade and a very high proportion of core genome genes (48 to 56%), indicating that small genome size is probably an ancestral characteristic. In their level of core genome conservation, the members of SAR11 are outliers, the most conserved free-living bacteria known. Shared features of the clade include low GC content, high gene synteny, a large hypervariable region bounded by rRNA genes, and low numbers of paralogs. Variation among the genomes included genes for phosphorus metabolism, glycolysis, and C1 metabolism, suggesting that adaptive specialization in nutrient resource utilization is important to niche partitioning and ecotype divergence within the clade. These data provide support for the conclusion that streamlining selection for efficient cell replication in the planktonic habitat has occurred throughout the evolution and diversification of this clade.
The SAR11 clade is the most abundant group of marine microorganisms worldwide, making them key players in the global carbon cycle. Growing knowledge about their biochemistry and metabolism is leading to a more mechanistic understanding of organic carbon oxidation and sequestration in the oceans. The discovery of small genomes in SAR11 provided crucial support for the theory that streamlining selection can drive genome reduction in low-nutrient environments. Study of isolates in culture revealed atypical organic nutrient requirements that can be attributed to genome reduction, such as conditional auxotrophy for glycine and its precursors, a requirement for reduced sulfur compounds, and evidence for widespread cycling of C1 compounds in marine environments. However, understanding the genetic variation and distribution of such pathways and characteristics like streamlining throughout the group has required the isolation and genome sequencing of diverse SAR11 representatives, an analysis of which we provide here.
Local niche occupancy of marine Synechococcus lineages is facilitated by lateral gene transfers. Genomic islands act as repositories for these transferred genes.
The picocyanobacterial genus Synechococcus occurs over wide oceanic expanses, having colonized most available niches in the photic zone. Large scale distribution patterns of the different Synechococcus clades (based on 16S rRNA gene markers) suggest the occurrence of two major lifestyles ('opportunists'/'specialists'), corresponding to two distinct broad habitats ('coastal'/'open ocean'). Yet, the genetic basis of niche partitioning is still poorly understood in this ecologically important group.
Here, we compare the genomes of 11 marine Synechococcus isolates, representing 10 distinct lineages. Phylogenies inferred from the core genome allowed us to refine the taxonomic relationships between clades by revealing a clear dichotomy within the main subcluster, reminiscent of the two aforementioned lifestyles. Genome size is strongly correlated with the cumulative lengths of hypervariable regions (or 'islands'). One of these, encompassing most genes encoding the light-harvesting phycobilisome rod complexes, is involved in adaptation to changes in light quality and has clearly been transferred between members of different Synechococcus lineages. Furthermore, we observed that two strains (RS9917 and WH5701) that have similar pigmentation and physiology have an unusually high number of genes in common, given their phylogenetic distance.
We propose that while members of a given marine Synechococcus lineage may have the same broad geographical distribution, local niche occupancy is facilitated by lateral gene transfers, a process in which genomic islands play a key role as a repository for transferred genes. Our work also highlights the need for developing picocyanobacterial systematics based on genome-derived parameters combined with ecological and physiological data.
The marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus is very abundant in warm, nutrient-poor oceanic areas. The upper mixed layer of oceans is populated by high light-adapted Prochlorococcus ecotypes, which despite their tiny genome (~1.7 Mb) seem to have developed efficient strategies to cope with stressful levels of photosynthetically active and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. At a molecular level, little is known yet about how such minimalist microorganisms manage to sustain high growth rates and avoid potentially detrimental, UV-induced mutations to their DNA. To address this question, we studied the cell cycle dynamics of P. marinus PCC9511 cells grown under high fluxes of visible light in the presence or absence of UV radiation. Near natural light-dark cycles of both light sources were obtained using a custom-designed illumination system (cyclostat). Expression patterns of key DNA synthesis and repair, cell division, and clock genes were analyzed in order to decipher molecular mechanisms of adaptation to UV radiation.
The cell cycle of P. marinus PCC9511 was strongly synchronized by the day-night cycle. The most conspicuous response of cells to UV radiation was a delay in chromosome replication, with a peak of DNA synthesis shifted about 2 h into the dark period. This delay was seemingly linked to a strong downregulation of genes governing DNA replication (dnaA) and cell division (ftsZ, sepF), whereas most genes involved in DNA repair (such as recA, phrA, uvrA, ruvC, umuC) were already activated under high visible light and their expression levels were only slightly affected by additional UV exposure.
Prochlorococcus cells modified the timing of the S phase in response to UV exposure, therefore reducing the risk that mutations would occur during this particularly sensitive stage of the cell cycle. We identified several possible explanations for the observed timeshift. Among these, the sharp decrease in transcript levels of the dnaA gene, encoding the DNA replication initiator protein, is sufficient by itself to explain this response, since DNA synthesis starts only when the cellular concentration of DnaA reaches a critical threshold. However, the observed response likely results from a more complex combination of UV-altered biological processes.
Populations of aerobic anoxygenic photoheterotrophic bacteria in marine environments are dominated by members of the Roseobacter lineage within the Alphaproteobacteria and the OM60/NOR5 clade of gammaproteobacteria. A wealth of information exists about the regulation of pigment production and mixotrophic growth in various members of the Roseobacter clade, but a detailed knowledge about aerobic bacteriochlorophyll a-containing gammaproteobacteria is still limited to one strain of the species Congregibacter litoralis.
The production of photosynthetic pigments and light-dependent mixotrophic growth was analysed in Luminiphilus syltensis DSM 22749T, Chromatocurvus halotolerans DSM 23344T and Pseudohaliea rubra DSM 19751T, representing three taxonomically diverse strains of bacteriochlorophyll a-containing gammaproteobacteria affiliated to the OM60/NOR5 clade. In these strains the expression of a photosynthetic apparatus depended mainly on the type of carbon source and availability of oxygen. The effect of illumination on pigment expression varied significantly between strains. In contrast to Chromatocurvus halotolerans, pigment production in Luminiphilus syltensis and Pseudohaliea rubra was repressed by light of moderate intensities, probably indicating a higher sensitivity to light-induced oxidative stress. The efficiency of using light for mixotrophic growth did not correlate with the cellular level of photosynthetic pigments, but depended mainly on the type of metabolized substrate with malate being the optimal carbon source in most cases.
Oligotrophic growth conditions or carbon limitation were not required for light-dependent mixotrophic growth in members of the OM60/NOR5 clade. The ability of using light as energy source and the fine tuning of photosynthesis gene expression depended mainly on the type of carbon source and oxygen availability, which indicates that the regulation of pigment production is controlled by the cellular redox state. While light has the main impact on the regulation of photosynthetic pigments in photoheterotrophic representatives of the Roseobacter lineage this was not the case in strains of the OM60/NOR5 clade.
Photoheterotrophy; Photophosphorylation; Roseobacter clade; Carbon starvation; Coastal marine environment
Although holoplankton are ocean drifters and exhibit high dispersal potential, a number of studies on single species are finding highly divergent genetic clades. These cryptic species complexes are important to discover and describe, as identification of common marine species is fundamental to understanding ecosystem dynamics. Here we investigate the global diversity within Pleuromamma piseki and P. gracilis, two dominant members of the migratory zooplankton assemblage in subtropical and tropical waters worldwide. Using DNA sequence data from the mitochondrial gene cytochrome c oxidase subunit II (mtCOII) from 522 specimens collected across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, we discover twelve well-resolved genetically distinct clades in this species complex (Bayesian posterior probabilities >0.7; 6.3–17% genetic divergence between clades). The morphologically described species P. piseki and P. gracilis did not form monophyletic groups, rather they were distributed throughout the phylogeny and sometimes co-occurred within well-resolved clades: this result suggests that morphological characters currently used for taxonomic identification of P. gracilis and P. piseki may be inaccurate as indicators of species’ boundaries. Cryptic clades within the species complex ranged from being common to rare, and from cosmopolitan to highly restricted in distribution across the global ocean. These novel lineages appear to be ecologically divergent, with distinct biogeographic distributions across varied pelagic habitats. We hypothesize that these mtDNA lineages are distinct species and suggest that resolving their systematic status is important, given the ecological significance of the genus Pleuromamma in subtropical-tropical waters worldwide.
The marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus marinus, having multiple ecotypes of distinct genotypic/phenotypic traits and being the first documented example of genome shrinkage in free-living organisms, offers an ideal system for studying niche-driven molecular micro-diversity in closely related microbes. The present study, through an extensive comparative analysis of various genomic/proteomic features of 6 high light (HL) and 6 low light (LL) adapted strains, makes an attempt to identify molecular determinants associated with their vertical niche partitioning.
Pronounced strand-specific asymmetry in synonymous codon usage is observed exclusively in LL strains. Distinct dinucleotide abundance profiles are exhibited by 2 LL strains with larger genomes and G+C-content ≈ 50% (group LLa), 4 LL strains having reduced genomes and G+C-content ≈ 35-37% (group LLb), and 6 HL strains. Taking into account the emergence of LLa, LLb and HL strains (based on 16S rRNA phylogeny), a gradual increase in average aromaticity, pI values and beta- & coil-forming propensities and a decrease in mean hydrophobicity, instability indices and helix-forming propensities of core proteins are observed. Greater variations in orthologous gene repertoire are found between LLa and LLb strains, while higher number of positively selected genes exist between LL and HL strains.
Strains of different Prochlorococcus groups are characterized by distinct compositional, physicochemical and structural traits that are not mere remnants of a continuous genetic drift, but are potential outcomes of a grand scheme of niche-oriented stepwise diversification, that might have driven them chronologically towards greater stability/fidelity and invoked upon them a special ability to inhabit diverse oceanic environments.
Mesophilic ammonia-oxidizing Archaea (AOA) are abundant in a diverse range of marine environments, including the deep ocean, as revealed by the quantification of the archaeal amoA gene encoding the alpha-subunit of the ammonia monooxygenase. Using two different amoA primer sets, two distinct ecotypes of marine Crenarchaeota Group I (MCGI) were detected in the waters of the tropical Atlantic and the coastal Arctic. The HAC-AOA ecotype (high ammonia concentration AOA) was ≍ 8000 times and 15 times more abundant in the coastal Arctic and the top 300 m layer of the open equatorial Atlantic, respectively, than the LAC-AOA (low ammonia concentration AOA) ecotype. In contrast, the LAC-AOA ecotype dominated the lower meso- and bathypelagic waters of the tropical Atlantic (≍ 50 times more abundant than the HAC-AOA) where ammonia concentrations are well below the detection limit using conventional spectrophotometric or fluorometric methods. Cluster analysis of the sequences from the clone libraries obtained by the two amoA primer sets revealed two phylogenetically distinct clusters. Taken together, our results suggest the presence of two ecotypes of archaeal ammonia oxidizers corresponding to the medium (1.24 µM on average in the coastal Arctic) and low ammonia concentration (< 0.01 µM) in the shallow and the deep waters respectively.
Microbial ecologists and systematists are challenged to discover the early ecological changes that drive the splitting of one bacterial population into two ecologically distinct populations. We have aimed to identify newly divergent lineages (“ecotypes”) bearing the dynamic properties attributed to species, with the rationale that discovering their ecological differences would reveal the ecological dimensions of speciation. To this end, we have sampled bacteria from the Bacillus subtilis-Bacillus licheniformis clade from sites differing in solar exposure and soil texture within a Death Valley canyon. Within this clade, we hypothesized ecotype demarcations based on DNA sequence diversity, through analysis of the clade's evolutionary history by Ecotype Simulation (ES) and AdaptML. Ecotypes so demarcated were found to be significantly different in their associations with solar exposure and soil texture, suggesting that these and covarying environmental parameters are among the dimensions of ecological divergence for newly divergent Bacillus ecotypes. Fatty acid composition appeared to contribute to ecotype differences in temperature adaptation, since those ecotypes with more warm-adapting fatty acids were isolated more frequently from sites with greater solar exposure. The recognized species and subspecies of the B. subtilis-B. licheniformis clade were found to be nearly identical to the ecotypes demarcated by ES, with a few exceptions where a recognized taxon is split at most into three putative ecotypes. Nevertheless, the taxa recognized do not appear to encompass the full ecological diversity of the B. subtilis-B. licheniformis clade: ES and AdaptML identified several newly discovered clades as ecotypes that are distinct from any recognized taxon.
Chthamalus malayensis is a common intertidal acorn barnacle widely distributed in the Indo-West Pacific. Analysis of sequences of mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I reveals four genetically differentiated clades with almost allopatric distribution in this region. The four clades exhibit morphological differences in arthropodal characters, including the number of conical spines and number of setules of the basal guard setae on the cirri. These characters are, however, highly variable within each clade; such that the absolute range of the number of conical spines and setules overlaps between clades, and therefore, these are not diagnostic characters for taxonomic identification. The geographic distribution of the four clades displays a strong relationship between surface temperatures of the sea and ocean-current realms. The Indo-Malay (IM) clade is widespread in the tropical, equatorial region, including the Indian Ocean, Malay Peninsula, and North Borneo. The South China (SC) and Taiwan (TW) clades are found in tropical to subtropical regions, with the former distributed along the coasts of southern China, Vietnam, Thailand, and the western Philippines under the influence of the South China Warm Current. The TW clade is endemic to Taiwan, while the Christmas Island (CI) clade is confined to CI. There was weak or no population subdivision observed within these clades, suggesting high gene flow within the range of the clades. The clades demonstrate clear signatures of recent demographic expansion that predated the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), but they have maintained a relatively stable effective population in the past 100,000 years. The persistence of intertidal fauna through the LGM may, therefore, be a common biogeographic pattern. The lack of genetic subdivision in the IM clade across the Indian and Pacific Oceans may be attributed to recent expansion of ranges and the fact that a mutation-drift equilibrium has not been reached, or the relaxed habitat requirements of C. malayensis that facilitates high concurrent gene flow. Further studies are needed to determine between these alternative hypotheses.
Eurythenes gryllus is one of the most widespread amphipod species, occurring in every ocean with a depth range covering the bathyal, abyssal and hadal zones. Previous studies, however, indicated the existence of several genetically and morphologically divergent lineages, questioning the assumption of its cosmopolitan and eurybathic distribution. For the first time, its genetic diversity was explored at the global scale (Arctic, Atlantic, Pacific and Southern oceans) by analyzing nuclear (28S rDNA) and mitochondrial (COI, 16S rDNA) sequence data using various species delimitation methods in a phylogeographic context. Nine putative species-level clades were identified within E. gryllus. A clear distinction was observed between samples collected at bathyal versus abyssal depths, with a genetic break occurring around 3,000 m. Two bathyal and two abyssal lineages showed a widespread distribution, while five other abyssal lineages each seemed to be restricted to a single ocean basin. The observed higher diversity in the abyss compared to the bathyal zone stands in contrast to the depth-differentiation hypothesis. Our results indicate that, despite the more uniform environment of the abyss and its presumed lack of obvious isolating barriers, abyssal populations might be more likely to show population differentiation and undergo speciation events than previously assumed. Potential factors influencing species’ origins and distributions, such as hydrostatic pressure, are discussed. In addition, morphological findings coincided with the molecular clades. Of all specimens available for examination, those of the bipolar bathyal clade seemed the most similar to the ‘true’ E. gryllus. We present the first molecular evidence for a bipolar distribution in a macro-benthic deep-sea organism.
There are three described subspecies of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus): B. p. physalus Linnaeus, 1758 in the Northern Hemisphere, B. p. quoyi Fischer, 1829 in the Southern Hemisphere, and a recently described pygmy form, B. p. patachonica Burmeister, 1865. The discrete distribution in the North Pacific and North Atlantic raises the question of whether a single Northern Hemisphere subspecies is valid. We assess phylogenetic patterns using ∼16 K base pairs of the complete mitogenome for 154 fin whales from the North Pacific, North Atlantic - including the Mediterranean Sea - and Southern Hemisphere. A Bayesian tree of the resulting 136 haplotypes revealed several well-supported clades representing each ocean basin, with no haplotypes shared among ocean basins. The North Atlantic haplotypes (n = 12) form a sister clade to those from the Southern Hemisphere (n = 42). The estimated time to most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) for this Atlantic/Southern Hemisphere clade and 81 of the 97 samples from the North Pacific was approximately 2 Ma. 14 of the remaining North Pacific samples formed a well-supported clade within the Southern Hemisphere. The TMRCA for this node suggests that at least one female from the Southern Hemisphere immigrated to the North Pacific approximately 0.37 Ma. These results provide strong evidence that North Pacific and North Atlantic fin whales should not be considered the same subspecies, and suggest the need for revision of the global taxonomy of the species.
We investigated the effects of bottle enclosure on autotrophic and heterotrophic picoplankton in North and South subtropical Atlantic oligotrophic waters, where the biomass and metabolism of the microbial community are dominated by the picoplankton size class. We measured changes in both autotrophic (Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus, and picoeukaryotes) and heterotrophic picoplankton biomass during three time series experiments and in 16 endpoint experiments over 24 h in light and dark treatments. Our results showed a divergent effect of bottle incubation on the autotrophic and heterotrophic components of the picoplankton community. The biomass of picophytoplankton showed, on average, a >50% decrease, mostly affecting the picoeukaryotes and, to a lesser extent, Prochlorococcus. In contrast, the biomass of heterotrophic bacteria remained constant or increased during the incubations. We also sampled 10 stations during a Lagrangian study in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, which enabled us to compare the observed changes in the auto- to heterotrophic picoplankton biomass ratio (AB:HB ratio) inside the incubation bottles with those taking place in situ. While the AB:HB ratio in situ remained fairly constant during the Lagrangian study, it decreased significantly during the 24 h of incubation experiments. Thus, the rapid biomass changes observed in the incubations are artifacts resulting from bottle confinement and do not take place in natural conditions. Our results suggest that short (<1 day) bottle incubations in oligotrophic waters may lead to biased estimates of the microbial metabolic balance by underestimating primary production and/or overestimating bacterial respiration.