Phenotypic microdiversity and phylogenetic signal analysis of traits related to social interaction in Bacillus spp. from sediment communities

María Dolores Rodríguez-Torres, África Islas-Robles, Zulema Gómez-Lunar, Luis Delaye, Ismael Hernández-González, Valeria Souza, Michael Travisano, Gabriela Olmedo-álvarez

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16 Scopus citations


Understanding the relationship between phylogeny and predicted traits is important to uncover the dimension of the predictive power of a microbial composition approach. Numerous works have addressed the taxonomic composition of bacteria in communities, but little is known about trait heterogeneity in closely related bacteria that co-occur in communities. We evaluated a sample of 467 isolates from the Churince water system of the Cuatro Cienegas Basin (CCB), enriched for Bacillus spp. The 16S rRNA gene revealed a random distribution of taxonomic groups within this genus among 11 sampling sites. A subsample of 141 Bacillus spp. isolates from sediment, with seven well-represented species was chosen to evaluate the heterogeneity and the phylogenetic signal of phenotypic traits that are known to diverge within small clades, such as substrate utilization, and traits that are conserved deep in the lineage, such as prototrophy, swarming and biofilm formation. We were especially interested in evaluating social traits, such as swarming and biofilm formation, for which cooperation is needed to accomplish a multicellular behavior and for which there is little information from natural communities. The phylogenetic distribution of traits, evaluated by the Purvis and Fritz's D statistics approached a Brownian model of evolution. Analysis of the phylogenetic relatedness of the clusters of members sharing the trait using consenTRAIT algorithm, revealed more clustering and deeper phylogenetic signal for prototrophy, biofilm and swimming compared to the data obtained for substrate utilization. The explanation to the observed Brownian evolution of social traits could be either loss due to complete dispensability or to compensated trait loss due to the availability of public goods. Since many of the evaluated traits can be considered to be collective action traits, such as swarming, motility and biofilm formation, the observed microdiversity within taxonomic groups might be explained by distributed functions in structured communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number29
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberJAN
StatePublished - Jan 30 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Rodríguez-Torres, Islas-Robles, Gómez-Lunar, Delaye, Hernández-González, Souza, Travisano and Olmedo-álvarez.


  • Bacillus spp
  • Collective action
  • Microbial communities
  • Phenotypic trait loss
  • Phylogenetic signal


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