Nature Reviews Microbiology 6, 559-564 (July 2008) | doi:10.1038/nrmicro1917

OpinionMicrobial endemism: does phosphorus limitation enhance speciation?

Valeria Souza1, Luis E. Eguiarte1, Janet Siefert2 & James J. Elser3  About the authors


There is increasing evidence for the existence of unique ecosystems that are dominated by locally adapted microbiota which harbour distinct lineages and biological capabilities, much like the macrobiota of Darwin's Galapagos Islands. As a primary example of such a system, we highlight key discoveries from the Cuatro Ciénegas basin in Mexico. We argue that high microbial endemism requires a combination of geographical isolation, long-term continuity and mechanisms for reducing the intensity of horizontal gene transfer (HGT). We also propose that strong phosphorus limitation has an important role in microbial diversification by reducing the intensity of HGT.

Author affiliations

  1. Valeria Souza and Luis E. Eguiarte are at the Department of Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, CU, AP 70-275, Coyoacán, 04510 México DF, Mexico.
  2. Janet Siefert is at the Department of Statistics, Rice University, Houston, Texas 77251, USA.
  3. James J. Elser is at the School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287, USA.

Correspondence to: Valeria Souza1 Email:

Published online 3 June 2008


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