Global ecological patterns in uncultured Archaea

Jean Christophe Auguet, Albert Barberan, Emilio O. Casamayor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

347 Scopus citations


We have applied a global analytical approach to uncultured Archaea that for the first time reveals well-defined community patterns along broad environmental gradients and habitat types. Phylogenetic patterns and the environmental factors governing the creation and maintenance of these patterns were analyzed for c. 2000 archaeal 16S rRNA gene sequences from 67 globally distributed studies. The sequences were dereplicated at 97% identity, grouped into seven habitat types, and analyzed with both Unifrac (to explore shared phylogenetic history) and multivariate regression tree (that considers the relative abundance of the lineages or taxa) approaches. Both phylogenetic and taxon-based approaches showed salinity and not temperature as one of the principal driving forces at the global scale. Hydrothermal vents and planktonic freshwater habitats emerged as the largest reservoirs of archaeal diversity and consequently are promising environments for the discovery of new archaeal lineages. Conversely, soils were more phylogenetically clustered and archaeal diversity was the result of a high number of closely related phylotypes rather than different lineages. Applying the ecological concept of 'indicator species', we detected up to 13 indicator archaeal lineages for the seven habitats prospected. Some of these lineages (that is, hypersaline MSBL1, marine sediment FCG1 and freshwater plSA1), for which ecological importance has remained unseen to date, deserve further attention as they represent potential key archaeal groups in terms of distribution and ecological processes. Hydrothermal vents held the highest number of indicator lineages, suggesting it would be the earliest habitat colonized by Archaea. Overall, our approach provided ecological support for the often arbitrary nomenclature within uncultured Archaea, as well as phylogeographical clues on key ecological and evolutionary aspects of archaeal biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-190
Number of pages9
JournalISME Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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