A detailed map of the microverse: Microbial niches
Published:16 Apr.2023    Source:Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet Jena
Depending on how organisms have adapted to the particular environmental, ecologists classify them as generalists or specialists. While generalists can cope with a wide range of environmental conditions, specialists grow only under very specific circumstances.
Researchers analysed and quantified thousands of metagenomic data sets from different microbial samples from all over the world and found that in most habitats, generalists are dominant. And there was another result that the researchers had not expected: The genomes of the generalists are not particularly large.
The genomes of generalists are more variable than those of specialists, with genes coming and going during evolution. This allows them to integrate genetic information from other organisms through horizontal gene transfer and thus to adapt rapidly to the local niche. In conclusion, the analysis sheds new and unexpected light on microbial niche range strategies throughout the microbial tree of life.