Thursday, September 9, 2010

PLoS ONE: Fine-Scale Bacterial Beta Diversity within a Complex Ecosystem (Zodletone Spring, OK, USA): The Role of the Rare Biosphere

by Mostafa El-Shahed and colleagues

Abstract: Background

The adaptation of pyrosequencing technologies for use in culture-independent diversity surveys allowed for deeper sampling of ecosystems of interest. One extremely well suited area of interest for pyrosequencing-based diversity surveys that has received surprisingly little attention so far, is examining fine scale (e.g. micrometer to millimeter) beta diversity in complex microbial ecosystems.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We examined the patterns of fine scale Beta diversity in four adjacent sediment samples (1mm apart) from the source of an anaerobic sulfide and sulfur rich spring (Zodletone spring) in southwestern Oklahoma, USA. Using pyrosequencing, a total of 292,130 16S rRNA gene sequences were obtained. The beta diversity patterns within the four datasets were examined using various qualitative and quantitative similarity indices. Low levels of Beta diversity (high similarity indices) were observed between the four samples at the phylum-level. However, at a putative species (OTU0.03) level, higher levels of beta diversity (lower similarity indices) were observed. Further examination of beta diversity patterns within dominant and rare members of the community indicated that at the putative species level, beta diversity is much higher within rare members of the community. Finally, sub-classification of rare members of Zodletone spring community based on patterns of novelty and uniqueness, and further examination of fine scale beta diversity of each of these subgroups indicated that members of the community that are unique, but non novel showed the highest beta diversity within these subgroups of the rare biosphere.


The results demonstrate the occurrence of high inter-sample diversity within seemingly identical samples from a complex habitat. We reason that such unexpected diversity should be taken into consideration when exploring gamma diversity of various ecosystems, as well as planning for sequencing-intensive metagenomic surveys of highly complex ecosystems.

Read the open-access, full-text article here: