Strategic traits of bacteria and archaea vary widely within substrate-use groups

Mark Westoby*, Daniel A. Nielsen, Michae R. Gillings, Vadim M. Gumerov, Joshua S. Madin, Ian T. Paulsen, Sasha G. Tetu

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Quantitative traits such as maximum growth rate and cell radial diameter are one facet of ecological strategy variation across bacteria and archaea. Another facet is substrate-use pathways, such as iron reduction or methylotrophy. Here, we ask how these two facets intersect, using a large compilation of data for culturable species and examining seven quantitative traits (genome size, signal transduction protein count, histidine kinase count, growth temperature, temperature-adjusted maximum growth rate, cell radial diameter and 16S rRNA operon copy number). Overall, quantitative trait variation within groups of organisms possessing a particular substrate-use pathway was very broad, outweighing differences between substrate-use groups. Although some substrate-use groups had significantly different means for some quantitative traits, standard deviation of quantitative trait values within each substrate-use pathway mostly averaged between 1.6 and 1.8 times larger than standard deviation across group means. Most likely, this wide variation reflects ecological strategy: for example, fast maximum growth rate is likely to express an early successional or copiotrophic strategy, and maximum growth varies widely within most substrate-use pathways. In general, it appears that these quantitative traits express different and complementary information about ecological strategy, compared with substrate use.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberfiab142
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


    • ecological strategies
    • maximum growth rate
    • cell diameter
    • genome size
    • signal transduction proteins
    • substrate-use pathways


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