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Global biogeography of SAR11 marine bacteria

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posted on 2023-05-19, 08:21 authored by Brown, MV, Lauro, FM, DeMaere, MZ, Muir, D, Wilkins, D, Thomas, T, Riddle, MJ, Furhman, JA, Andrews-Pfannkoch, C, Hoffman, JM, McQuaid, JB, Allen, A, Stephen Rintoul, Cavicchiolo, R
The ubiquitous SAR11 bacterial clade is the most abundant type of organism in the world's oceans, but the reasons for its success are not fully elucidated. We analysed 128 surface marine metagenomes, including 37 new Antarctic metagenomes. The large size of the data set enabled internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions to be obtained from the Southern polar region, enabling the first global characterization of the distribution of SAR11, from waters spanning temperatures −2 to 30°C. Our data show a stable co‐occurrence of phylotypes within both ‘tropical’ (>20°C) and ‘polar’ (<10°C) biomes, highlighting ecological niche differentiation between major SAR11 subgroups. All phylotypes display transitions in abundance that are strongly correlated with temperature and latitude. By assembling SAR11 genomes from Antarctic metagenome data, we identified specific genes, biases in gene functions and signatures of positive selection in the genomes of the polar SAR11—genomic signatures of adaptive radiation. Our data demonstrate the importance of adaptive radiation in the organism's ability to proliferate throughout the world's oceans, and describe genomic traits characteristic of different phylotypes in specific marine biomes.


Publication title

Molecular Systems Biology



Article number









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

2012 EMBO and Macmillan Publishers Limited Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Marine biodiversity

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    University Of Tasmania