Variation in range size and dispersal capabilities of microbial taxa

Mallory J. Choudoir, Albert Barberán, Holly L. Menninger, Rob R. Dunn, Noah Fierer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Geographic range size can span orders of magnitude for plant and animal species, with the study of why range sizes vary having preoccupied biogeographers for decades. In contrast, there have been few comparable studies of how range size varies across microbial taxa and what traits may be associated with this variation. We determined the range sizes of 74,134 bacterial and archaeal taxa found in settled dust collected from 1,065 locations across the United States. We found that most microorganisms have small ranges and few have large ranges, a pattern similar to the range size distributions commonly observed for macrobes. However, contrary to expectations, those microbial taxa that were locally abundant did not necessarily have larger range sizes. The observed differences in microbial range sizes were generally predictable from taxonomic identity, phenotypic traits, genomic attributes, and habitat preferences, findings that provide insight into the factors shaping patterns of microbial biogeography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-334
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • biogeography
  • dispersal
  • dust-associated microbes
  • geographic range size
  • microbial dispersal
  • microbiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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