Exploring the evolution of wild microbes using a molecular genomic approach (WILDE)

During the last two decades, there has been a huge increase in our knowledge of microbial diversity, phylogeny and genomics. However, we have limited knowledge on microbial population genetics and microevolution of wild microbes. Knowing the rate of evolution of wild microbes in the natural environment is crucial if we are to understand and predict how ecologically important marine microbes will cope as the oceans continue to change under global climate change. Laboratory experiment have been been useful for exploring the mechanisms of evolution in microbes. Yet, as a consequence of complex and variable biotic and abiotic interactions, the evolutionary process in ecosystems may be substantially different from what has been observed in lab experiments featuring relatively constant and simple environments.

The next step to increase our understanding of microbial evolution is to investigate evolution of wild microbes in the natural environment. WildE aims to quantify the rate of evolution in wild marine microbes, using metagenomic time-series data (monthly samples over 7 years: 2009-2015). In addition, WildE will quantify the rate of evolution in natural assemblages of marine microbes, under selection pressure (elevated temperature) and measure how environmental selection changes population structure using an enclosed mesocosm experiment. Using both field investigations and mesocosm experiments will strengthen our understanding of evolutionary dynamics of wild populations. Exploring wild microbes will most likely reveal novel evolutionary patterns emerging as a consequence of ecosystem complexity, providing hints on the impact of horizontal gene transfer, recombination and viral infections on the genome composition of different species. The data produced here will be of interest to both scientists and policy makers and will increase our understanding of how ecologically important marine microbes will respond to future global change. 


Financed by the  Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (IF), EU (contract 895338)