Skip to main content
Transmission in the origins of bacterial diversity, from ecotypes to phyla
Microbiology Spectrum (2017)
  • Frederick M Cohan
Any two lineages, no matter how distant they are now, began their divergence as one population splitting into two lineages that could coexist indefinitely. The rate of origin of higher level taxa is therefore the product of the rate of speciation times the probability that two new species coexist long enough to reach a particular level of divergence. Here I have explored these two parameters of disparification in bacteria. Owing to low recombination rates, sexual isolation is not a necessary milestone of bacterial speciation. Rather, irreversible and indefinite divergence begins with ecological diversification, that is, transmission of a bacterial lineage to a new ecological niche, possibly to a new microhabitat but at least to new resources. Several algorithms use sequence data from a taxon of focus to identify phylogenetic groups likely to bear the dynamic properties of species. Identifying these newly divergent lineages allows us to characterize the genetic bases of speciation, as well as the ecological dimensions upon which new species diverge. Speciation appears to be least frequent when a given lineage has few new resources it can adopt, as exemplified by photoautotrophs, C1 heterotrophs, and obligately intracellular pathogens; speciation is likely most rapid for generalist heterotrophs. The genetic basis of ecological divergence may determine whether ecological divergence is irreversible, and whether lineages will diverge indefinitely into the future. Long-term coexistence is most likely when newly divergent lineages utilize at least some resources not shared with the other and when the resources themselves will coexist into the remote future.
  • speciation,
  • diversification,
  • coexistence,
  • Ecotype Simulation,
  • disparification,
  • bacterial species concept,
  • periodic selection,
  • sexual selection,
  • Minimum Entropy Decomposition
Publication Date
May, 2017
Publisher Statement
Citation Information
Frederick M Cohan. "Transmission in the origins of bacterial diversity, from ecotypes to phyla" Microbiology Spectrum Vol. 5 Iss. 5 (2017) p. MTBP-0014-2016 ISSN: 2165-0497
Available at: