Microbial micropatches within microbial hotspots

Lisa Dann, Jody McKerral, Renee Smith, Shanan S Tobe, James Paterson, Justin Seymour, Rod Oliver, James G Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


The spatial distributions of organism abundance and diversity are often heterogeneous. This includes the sub-centimetre distributions of microbes, which have ‘hotspots’ of high abundance, and ‘coldspots’ of low abundance. Previously we showed that 300 μl abundance hotspots, coldspots and background regions were distinct at all taxonomic levels. Here we build on these results by showing taxonomic micropatches within these 300 μl microscale hotspots, coldspots and background regions at the 1 μl scale. This heterogeneity among 1 μl subsamples was driven by heightened abundance of specific genera. The micropatches were most pronounced within hotspots. Micropatches were dominated by Pseudomonas, Bacteroides, Parasporobacterium and Lachnospiraceae incertae sedis, with Pseudomonas and Bacteroides being responsible for a shift in the most dominant genera in individual hotspot subsamples, representing up to 80.6% and 47.3% average abundance, respectively. The presence of these micropatches implies the ability these groups have to create, establish themselves in, or exploit heterogeneous microenvironments. These genera are often particle-associated, from which we infer that these micropatches are evidence for sub-millimetre aggregates and the aquatic polymer matrix. These findings support the emerging paradigm that the microscale distributions of planktonic microbes are numerically and taxonomically heterogeneous at scales of millimetres and less. We show that microscale microbial hotspots have internal structure within which specific local nutrient exchanges and cellular interactions might occur.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0197224
Number of pages22
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright: © 2018 Dann et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • microbial hotspots
  • microbial micropatches
  • Spatial distributions


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