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Evolutionary constraints on species diversity in marine bacterioplankton communities

The ISME Journal (2019) | Download Citation


Variation in microbial species diversity has typically been explained as the outcome of local ecological factors driving species coexistence, overlooking the roles of evolutionary constraints. Here, we argue that macro-evolutionary niche conservatism and unequal diversification rates among phylum-level lineages are strong determinants of diversity–environment relationships in bacterial systems. That is, apart from stochasticity, environmental effects operate most strongly on phylum composition, which in turn dictates the species diversity of bacterial communities. This concept is demonstrated using bacterioplankton in the surface seawaters of the East China Sea. Furthermore, we show that the species richness of a local bacterioplankton community can generally be estimated based on the relative abundances of phyla and their contributions of species numbers in the global seawater pool—highlighting the important influence of evolutionary constraints on local community diversity.

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We thank Hon-Tsen Yu for providing facilities and advice on laboratory work, and the Genome Research Center in National Yang-Ming University for sequencing service. Comments from David Armitage have greatly improved this work. This work was supported by the National Center for Theoretical Sciences, Foundation for the Advancement of Outstanding Scholarship, and the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan.

Author information


  1. Institute of Oceanography, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan

    • Hsiao-Pei Lu
    • , Fuh-Kwo Shiah
    •  & Chih-hao Hsieh
  2. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

    • Yi-Chun Yeh
  3. Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan

    • Fuh-Kwo Shiah
    •  & Chih-hao Hsieh
  4. Institute of Marine Environment and Ecology, National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung, Taiwan

    • Fuh-Kwo Shiah
    •  & Gwo-Ching Gong
  5. Center of Excellence for the Oceans, National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung, Taiwan

    • Gwo-Ching Gong
  6. Department of Life Science, Institute of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan

    • Chih-hao Hsieh
  7. National Center for Theoretical Sciences, Taipei, Taiwan

    • Chih-hao Hsieh


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Correspondence to Chih-hao Hsieh.

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