Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Bacterial classification remains elusive

New research from Dartmouth College raises questions over how scientists should interpret observed groupings of bacteria. The study advises caution with the assumption that bacterial clusters are always a result of ecological and genetic forces.

The research indicates that random diversification and extinction of cells could organize bacteria into taxonomic units just as effectively as classification based on selection-driven ecological forces. Scientists are currently divided over what factors to consider when classifying bacteria and other microorganisms. Some favor the so-called "periodic selection" model, in which the descendant of the most-fit genotype takes over the population and establishes a new group. Others advocate the "recombination" model, in which the frequent exchange of material between genes within bacterial populations causes organisms to cluster.


Timothy J. Straub, and Olga Zhaxybayeva. A null model for microbial diversification. PNAS, 2017 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1619993114

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle