Journal article

Is There a Size Limit for Cosmopolitan Distribution in Free-Living Microorganisms? A Biogeographical Analysis of Testate Amoebae from Polar Areas

A long-standing debate in microbial ecology is the extent to which free-living microorganisms exhibit cosmopolitan distributions. We use a comparison of testate amoebae communities in cold "polar" locations (Arctic, Antarctic, and Tibet) to investigate how a microorganism's size affects its probability of having a cosmopolitan distribution. We show that the probability a given taxa being reported in all three locations increases as testate size decreases. Likewise, excluding those testates found only in Tibet, very small testates (< 20 mu m) are more likely to occur in both the Arctic and Antarctic than in either of these poles alone. Attempting to correct for phylogeny reduces the number of statistically significant relationships-both because of decreased sample size and potentially real phylogenetic patterns, although some size-dependent effects were still apparent. In particular, taxa found in both the Arctic and Antarctic poles were significantly smaller than congeneric taxa found only in Tibet. This pattern may in part be due to habitat effects, with the Tibetan samples being more likely to have come from aquatic sites which may be more suitable for larger taxa. Overall, our analysis suggests that, at least within testate amoebae, a cosmopolitan distribution becomes increasingly common as median taxon size decreases.


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