Microbial Ecology

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 1–21 | Cite as

Microbial Evolution, Diversity, and Ecology: A Decade of Ribosomal RNA Analysis of Uncultivated Microorganisms

  • I.M.  Head
  • J.R.  Saunders
  • R.W.  Pickup


The application of molecular biological methods to study the diversity and ecology of microorganisms in natural environments has been practiced since the mid-1980s. Since that time many new insights into the composition of uncultivated microbial communities have been gained. Whole groups of organisms that are only known from molecular sequences are now believed to be quantitatively significant in many environments. Molecular methods have also allowed characterization of many long-recognized but poorly understood organisms. These organisms have eluded laboratory cultivation and, hence, have remained enigmatic. This review provides an outline of the main methods used in molecular microbial ecology, and their limitations. Some discoveries, made through the application of molecular biological methods, are highlighted, with reference to morphologically distinctive, uncultivated bacteria; an important biotechnological process (wastewater treatment); and symbiotic relationships between Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya.


Wastewater Microbial Community Wastewater Treatment Natural Environment Archaea 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • I.M.  Head
    • 1
  • J.R.  Saunders
    • 2
  • R.W.  Pickup
    • 3
  1. 1.Newcastle Research Group in Fossil Fuels and Environmental Geochemistry, Drummond Building, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UKGB
  2. 2.Department of Genetics and Microbiology, Life Sciences Building, University of Liverpool, P.O. Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX, UKGB
  3. 3.Institute of Freshwater Ecology, Windermere Laboratory, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0LP, UKGB

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