Microbial Populations Are Shaped by Dispersal and Recombination in a Low Biomass Subseafloor Habitat
Published in mBio, 2022
The subseafloor is a vast habitat that supports microorganisms that have a global scale impact on geochemical cycles. Many of the endemic microbial communities inhabiting the subseafloor consist of small populations under growth-limited conditions. For small populations, stochastic evolutionary events can have large impacts on intraspecific population dynamics and allele frequencies. These conditions are fundamentally different from those experienced by most microorganisms in surface environments, and it is unknown how small population sizes and growth-limiting conditions influence evolution and population structure in the subsurface. Using a 2-year, high-resolution environmental time series, we examine the dynamics of microbial populations from cold, oxic crustal fluids collected from the subseafloor site North Pond, located near the mid-Atlantic ridge. Our results reveal rapid shifts in overall abundance, allele frequency, and strain abundance across the time points observed, with evidence for homologous recombination between coexisting lineages. We show that the subseafloor aquifer is a dynamic habitat that hosts microbial metapopulations that disperse frequently through the crustal fluids, enabling gene flow and recombination between microbial populations. The dynamism and stochasticity of microbial population dynamics in North Pond suggest that these forces are important drivers in the evolution of microbial populations in the vast subseafloor habitat.
Recommended citation: Anderson, R. E., Graham, E. D., Huber, J. A. & Tully, B. J. Microbial Populations Are Shaped by Dispersal and Recombination in a Low Biomass Subseafloor Habitat. Mbio e00354-22 (2022) doi:10.1128/mbio.00354-22. https://journals.asm.org/doi/full/10.1128/mbio.00354-22