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      Biofilms: an emergent form of bacterial life.

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          Bacterial biofilms are formed by communities that are embedded in a self-produced matrix of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). Importantly, bacteria in biofilms exhibit a set of 'emergent properties' that differ substantially from free-living bacterial cells. In this Review, we consider the fundamental role of the biofilm matrix in establishing the emergent properties of biofilms, describing how the characteristic features of biofilms - such as social cooperation, resource capture and enhanced survival of exposure to antimicrobials - all rely on the structural and functional properties of the matrix. Finally, we highlight the value of an ecological perspective in the study of the emergent properties of biofilms, which enables an appreciation of the ecological success of biofilms as habitat formers and, more generally, as a bacterial lifestyle.

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          Light-Gap disturbances, recruitment limitation, and tree diversity in a neotropical forest

          Light gap disturbances have been postulated to play a major role in maintaining tree diversity in species-rich tropical forests. This hypothesis was tested in more than 1200 gaps in a tropical forest in Panama over a 13-year period. Gaps increased seedling establishment and sapling densities, but this effect was nonspecific and broad-spectrum, and species richness per stem was identical in gaps and in nongap control sites. Spatial and temporal variation in the gap disturbance regime did not explain variation in species richness. The species composition of gaps was unpredictable even for pioneer tree species. Strong recruitment limitation appears to decouple the gap disturbance regime from control of tree diversity in this tropical forest.
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            Social evolution theory for microorganisms.

            Microorganisms communicate and cooperate to perform a wide range of multicellular behaviours, such as dispersal, nutrient acquisition, biofilm formation and quorum sensing. Microbiologists are rapidly gaining a greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in these behaviours, and the underlying genetic regulation. Such behaviours are also interesting from the perspective of social evolution - why do microorganisms engage in these behaviours given that cooperative individuals can be exploited by selfish cheaters, who gain the benefit of cooperation without paying their share of the cost? There is great potential for interdisciplinary research in this fledgling field of sociomicrobiology, but a limiting factor is the lack of effective communication of social evolution theory to microbiologists. Here, we provide a conceptual overview of the different mechanisms through which cooperative behaviours can be stabilized, emphasizing the aspects most relevant to microorganisms, the novel problems that microorganisms pose and the new insights that can be gained from applying evolutionary theory to microorganisms.
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              Metabolic dependencies drive species co-occurrence in diverse microbial communities.

              Microbial communities populate most environments on earth and play a critical role in ecology and human health. Their composition is thought to be largely shaped by interspecies competition for the available resources, but cooperative interactions, such as metabolite exchanges, have also been implicated in community assembly. The prevalence of metabolic interactions in microbial communities, however, has remained largely unknown. Here, we systematically survey, by using a genome-scale metabolic modeling approach, the extent of resource competition and metabolic exchanges in over 800 communities. We find that, despite marked resource competition at the level of whole assemblies, microbial communities harbor metabolically interdependent groups that recur across diverse habitats. By enumerating flux-balanced metabolic exchanges in these co-occurring subcommunities we also predict the likely exchanged metabolites, such as amino acids and sugars, that can promote group survival under nutritionally challenging conditions. Our results highlight metabolic dependencies as a major driver of species co-occurrence and hint at cooperative groups as recurring modules of microbial community architecture.

                Author and article information

                Nat. Rev. Microbiol.
                Nature reviews. Microbiology
                Springer Nature
                Aug 11 2016
                : 14
                : 9
                [1 ] University of Duisburg-Essen, Faculty of Chemistry, Biofilm Centre, Universitätsstrasse 5, D-45141 Essen, Germany.
                [2 ] Technical University of Berlin, Department of Environmental Microbiology, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 1, D-10587 Berlin, Germany.
                [3 ] The School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences and The Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
                [4 ] The Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering and the School of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 637551.


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