Team Discovers Microbes Speciating

Not that long ago in a hot spring in Kamchatka, Russia, two groups of genetically indistinguishable microbes parted ways. They began evolving into different species – despite the fact that they still encountered one another in their acidic, boiling habitat and even exchanged some genes from time to time, researchers report.

Not that long ago in a hot spring in Kamchatka, Russia, two groups of genetically indistinguishable microbes parted ways. They began evolving into different species – despite the fact that they still encountered one another in their acidic, boiling habitat and even exchanged some genes from time to time, researchers report. This is the first example of what the researchers call sympatric speciation in a microorganism.

The idea of sympatric speciation (one lineage diverging into two or more species with no physical or mechanical barriers keeping them apart) is controversial and tricky to prove, especially in microbes, said Assistant Professor of Microbiology Rachel Whitaker, who led the study, "Patterns of Gene Flow Define Species of Thermophilic Archaea," published today in PLOS Biology.

University News Bureau
PLOS Biology

February 22, 2012 All News