Diversity and metabolic energy in bacteria

Ben Allen, Rebeca Gonzalez-Cabaleiro, Irina Dana Ofiteru, Lise Øvreås, William T. Sloan, Donna Swan, Thomas Curtis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)


Why are some groups of bacteria more diverse than others? We hypothesize that the metabolic energy available to a bacterial functional group (a biogeochemical group or ‘guild’) has a role in such a group’s taxonomic diversity. We tested this hypothesis by looking at the metacommunity diversity of functional groups in multiple biomes. We observed a positive correlation between estimates of a functional group’s diversity and their metabolic energy yield. Moreover, the slope of that relationship was similar in all biomes. These findings could imply the existence of a universal mechanism controlling the diversity of all functional groups in all biomes in the same way. We consider a variety of possible explanations from the classical (environmental variation) to the ‘non-Darwinian’ (a drift barrier effect). Unfortunately, these explanations are not mutually exclusive, and a deeper understanding of the ultimate cause(s) of bacterial diversity will require us to determine if and how the key parameters in population genetics (effective population size, mutation rate, and selective gradients) vary between functional groups and with environmental conditions: this is a difficult task.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfnad043
Number of pages9
JournalFEMS Microbiology Letters
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • bacteria
  • diversity
  • energy
  • metabolic


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