Delineation of ecologically distinct units of marine Bacteroidetes in the Northwestern Mediterranean Sea
John Wiley and Sons, Ltd
Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research / School of Science
Funding information available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.15068
Bacteroidetes is one of the dominant phyla of ocean bacterioplankton, yet its diversity and population structure is poorly understood. To advance in the delineation of ecologically meaningful units within this group, we constructed near full-length 16S rRNA gene clone libraries from contrasting marine environments in the NW Mediterranean. Based on phylogeny and the associated ecological variables (depth and season), 24 different Bacteroidetes clades were delineated. By considering their relative abundance (from iTag amplicon sequencing studies), we described the distribution patterns of each of these clades, delimiting them as Ecologically Significant Taxonomic Units (ESTUs). Spatially, there was almost no overlap among ESTUs at different depths. In deep waters there was predominance of Owenweeksia, Leeuwenhoekiella, Muricauda-related genera, and some depth-associated ESTUs within the NS5 and NS2b marine clades. Seasonally, multi-annual dynamics of recurring ESTUs were present with dominance of some ESTUs within the NS4, NS5 and NS2b marine clades along most of the year, but with variable relative frequencies between months. A drastic change towards the predominance of Formosa-related ESTUs and one ESTU from the NS5 marine clade was typically present after the spring bloom. Even though there are no isolates available for these ESTUs to determine their physiology, correlation analyses identified the environmental preference of some of them. Overall, our results suggest that there is a high degree of niche specialisation within these closely related clades. This work constitutes a step forward in disentangling the ecology of marine Bacteroidetes, which are essential players in organic matter processing in the oceans.