Microbes ride the current

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Science  12 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6202, pp. 1246-1247
DOI: 10.1126/science.1259467

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How do differences in marine bacterial populations arise in the ocean? On page 1346 of this issue, Hellweger et al. (1) investigate this question with a model based on ocean currents, parameterized with data from the most ubiquitous and abundant ocean bacterium, Pelagibacter. The model assumes that mutations are neutral—that is, they cause no change in the fitness of organisms, so that selection cannot act on them. The results show that neutral processes are enough to generate biogeographical patterns in marine bacteria without any adaptive evolution taking place.