September 24, 2010
Arctic Soil Study Yields Surprising Results
Across the globe, the diversity of plant and animal species generally increases from the North and South Poles towards the Equator but surprisingly that rule isn't true for soil bacteria, according to a new study by Queen's University biology professor Paul Grogan.
"It appears that the rules determining the patterns for plant and animal diversity are different than the rules for bacteria," says Professor Grogan.
Researchers examined the composition and genetic difference of soil bacterial communities from 29 remote arctic locations scattered across Canada, Alaska, Iceland, Greenland and Sweden.
The report also had a second surprising finding. The researchers expected that soil samples taken 20 meters apart would be more similar in terms of bacterial diversity than soil samples taken 5,500 kilometers apart because, in theory, plant or animal communities from nearby locations are likely to be more genetically similar than those from distant locations.
Generally, they found that each soil sample contained thousands of bacterial types, about 50 per cent of which were unique to each sample.
"It turns out that there is no similarity pattern in relation to distance at all, even in comparing side-by-side samples with samples taken from either side of a continent "“ this really amazed me," says Professor Grogan.
The research team included researchers from Queen's and the University of Colorado.
The findings have been accepted for publication in the journal Environmental Microbiology.
Image Caption: Professor Paul Grogan's findings have been accepted for publication in the journal Environmental Microbiology.
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