Context-dependent dynamics lead to the assembly of functionally distinct microbial communities

Leonora S. Bittleston, Matti Gralka, Gabriel E. Leventhal, Itzhak Mizrahi, Otto X. Cordero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Niche construction through interspecific interactions can condition future community states on past ones. However, the extent to which such history dependency can steer communities towards functionally different states remains a subject of active debate. Using bacterial communities collected from wild pitchers of the carnivorous pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, we test the effects of history on composition and function across communities assembled in synthetic pitcher plant microcosms. We find that the diversity of assembled communities is determined by the diversity of the system at early, pre-assembly stages. Species composition is also contingent on early community states, not only because of differences in the species pool, but also because the same species have different dynamics in different community contexts. Importantly, compositional differences are proportional to differences in function, as profiles of resource use are strongly correlated with composition, despite convergence in respiration rates. Early differences in community structure can thus propagate to mature communities, conditioning their functional repertoire.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1440
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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