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Is microbial diversity fundamentally different from biodiversity of larger animals and plants?

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For almost a century it has commonly been assumed that free-living microbes have a cosmopolitan distribution. Recently we have made extensive inventories of eukaryotic microorganisms in a one-hectare pond and in a two-hectare shallow marine site. Analysing these data shows that most organisms measuring less than about 1 mm (whether protists or small metazoans) appear to have a cosmopolitan distribution. Within each of the studied sites the recorded species represent an increasing fraction of the global species pool with decreasing organism size. These results are explained in terms of huge absolute population sizes of small species that correlate with a high probability of dispersal and a low probability of local extinction.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Copenhagen, Strandpromenaden 5, DK-3000 Helsingør, Denmark;, Email: 2: CEH Dorset, Winfrith Technology Centre, Winfrith Newburgh, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 8ZD, UK

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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