Evidence for a persistent microbial seed bank throughout the global ocean

Sean M. Gibbons, J. Gregory Caporaso, Meg Pirrung, Dawn Field, Rob Knight, Jack A. Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

181 Scopus citations


Do bacterial taxa demonstrate clear endemism, like macroorganisms, or can one site's bacterial community recapture the total phylogenetic diversity of the world's oceans? Here we compare a deep bacterial community characterization from one site in the English Channel (L4-DeepSeq) with 356 datasets from the International Census ofMarine Microbes (ICoMM) taken fromaround the globe (ranging frommarine pelagic and sediment samples to sponge-associated environments). At the L4-DeepSeq site, increasing sequencing depth uncovers greater phylogenetic overlap with the global ICoMMdata. This site contained 31.7-66.2% of operational taxonomic units identified in a given ICoMM biome. Extrapolation of this overlap suggests that 1.93 × 1011 sequences from the L4 site would capture all ICoMM bacterial phylogenetic diversity. Current technology trends suggest this limit may be attainable within 3 y. These results strongly suggest the marine biosphere maintains a previously undetected, persistent microbial seed bank.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4651-4655
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 19 2013


  • Deep sequencing
  • Microbial ecology
  • Rare biosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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