Bird, K. C., Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University, Hickory Corners, USA, email@example.com
Lennon, J. T., Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University, Hickory Corners, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
A key goal of ecology is to understand the factors maintaining species coexistence in diverse communities. Aquatic microbial communities are usually extremely diverse and are frequently limited by phosphorus (P) availability. P is often viewed as a single resource, but actually exists in many forms of varying availability to microbes. Microbial species coexistence may be influenced by their ability to specialize on these different P forms. To determine whether bacteria can partition P forms, we studied 30 strains isolated from a low- and high-P lake. We measured growth rates of each isolate on eighteen different P compounds. We found that bacteria vary in their ability to use P forms. Most strains were ‘generalists,’ capable of utilizing nearly all of the P sources, while some were 'specialists,' able to use only a few. We also found that a growth rate trade-off can result from this specialization, such that the specialist grows faster than other species on its preferred P source. Our results suggest that aquatic bacteria are able to partition the P pool, which may contribute to diversity maintenance.
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