Abstracts (first author)
Putting social microbes on the map: a phylogenomics approach
Careful analysis of natural genetic variation is crucial for understanding the processes driving the evolution of phenotypic traits in natural populations of microorganisms, including social traits. These processes include both those that generate new genetic variation (mutation, recombination, horizontal gene transfer) and those that determine the dynamics and ultimate fate of such variation (selection and drift). However, our understanding of natural microbial genetic diversity and how it relates to phenotypic divergence is extremely limited, including for social traits such as those exhibited by the myxobacteria. Based on multi-locus sequence types (MLST), several recent studies have started to characterize the population structure and spatial distribution of the genetic variance in natural isolates of a prominent member of this class of social delta-proteobacteria, Myxococcus xanthus. Here, we extend this work much further by applying a phylogenomics approach that aims at putting microbial genomes on a map spanning metric scales as disparate as 10^-9 m (fruiting bodies) up to 10^7 m (continents). Given the geographic information, we strive to disentangle and quantify the strength of the various evolutionary forces and how these shape the biogeography in this social model organism in the wild.