Research Article

Population Genomics of Early Events in the Ecological Differentiation of Bacteria

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Science  06 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6077, pp. 48-51
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218198

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Some Sort of Species

Certain populations of bacteria are known to show ecological differentiation, but how this happens has remained controversial. Shapiro et al. (p. 48; see the Perspective by Papke and Gogarten) examined whole-genome sequences from ecologically divergent Vibrio populations and found that genes and genome regions containing so-called “eco-SNPs” (single-nuleotide polymorphisms) have swept through populations. These regions differentiate the bacteria genetically, apparently according to the type of substratum on which they live. Subsequently, tight genotypic clusters may have emerged as a result of preferential recombination occurring within particular habitats. Although specialization into different habitats may reduce gene flow between bacterial populations, the bacteria will always remain open to taking up DNA from other populations and so they cannot be said to be species in the eukaryotic sense.

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