, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 197-207
Date: 08 Nov 2006

Biogeography: An Emerging Cornerstone for Understanding Prokaryotic Diversity, Ecology, and Evolution

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New questions about microbial ecology and diversity combined with significant improvement in the resolving power of molecular tools have helped the reemergence of the field of prokaryotic biogeography. Here, we show that biogeography may constitute a cornerstone approach to study diversity patterns at different taxonomic levels in the prokaryotic world. Fundamental processes leading to the formation of biogeographic patterns are examined in an evolutionary and ecological context. Based on different evolutionary scenarios, biogeographic patterns are thus posited to consist of dramatic range expansion or regression events that would be the results of evolutionary and ecological forces at play at the genotype level. The deterministic or random nature of those underlying processes is, however, questioned in light of recent surveys. Such scenarios led us to predict the existence of particular genes whose presence or polymorphism would be associated with cosmopolitan taxa. Furthermore, several conceptual and methodological pitfalls that could hamper future developments of the field are identified, and future approaches and new lines of investigation are suggested.