Spatial and temporal dynamics of SAR11 marine bacteria across a nearshore to offshore transect in the tropical Pacific Ocean

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Surveys of microbial communities across transitions coupled with contextual measures of the environment provide a useful approach to dissect the factors determining distributions of microorganisms across ecological niches. Here, monthly time-series samples of surface seawater along a transect spanning the nearshore coastal environment within Kāneʻohe Bay on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi, and the adjacent offshore environment were collected to investigate the diversity and abundance of SAR11 marine bacteria (order Pelagibacterales) over a 2-year time period. Using 16S ribosomal RNA gene amplicon sequencing, the spatiotemporal distributions of major SAR11 subclades and exact amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) were evaluated. Seven of eight SAR11 subclades detected in this study showed distinct subclade distributions across the coastal to offshore environments. The SAR11 community was dominated by seven (of 106 total) SAR11 ASVs that made up an average of 77% of total SAR11. These seven ASVs spanned five different SAR11 subclades (Ia, Ib, IIa, IV, and Va), and were recovered from all samples collected from either the coastal environment, the offshore, or both. SAR11 ASVs were more often restricted spatially to coastal or offshore environments (64 of 106 ASVs) than they were shared among coastal, transition, and offshore environments (39 of 106 ASVs). Overall, offshore SAR11 communities contained a higher diversity of SAR11 ASVs than their nearshore counterparts, with the highest diversity within the little-studied subclade IIa. This study reveals ecological differentiation of SAR11 marine bacteria across a short physiochemical gradient, further increasing our understanding of how SAR11 genetic diversity partitions into distinct ecological units.

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