Pozo MI, Herrera CM, Lachance MA, Verstrepen K, Lievens B, Jacquemyn H.

Environ Microbiol. 2015 Sep 3. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13037. [Epub ahead of print]

Identifying the ecological processes that underlie the distribution and abundance of species in microbial communities is a central issue in microbial ecology and evolution. Classical trade-off based niche theories of resource competition predict that co-occurrence in microbial communities is more likely when the residing species show trait divergence and complementary resource use. We tested the prediction that niche differentiation explained the co-occurrence of two yeast species (Metschnikowia reukaufii and M. gruessii) in floral nectar. Assessment of the phenotypic landscape showed that both species displayed a significantly different physiological profile. Comparison of utilization profiles in single versus mixed cultures indicated that these two species did not compete for most carbon and nitrogen sources. In mixed cultures, M. reukaufii grew better in sucrose solutions and in the presence of the antimicrobial compound digitonin than when grown as pure culture. M. gruessii, on the other hand, grew better in mixed cultures in glucose and fructose solutions. Overall, these results provide clear evidence that M. reukaufii and M. gruessii frequently co-occur in nectar and that they differ in their phenotypic response to variation in environmental conditions, suggesting that niche differentiation and resource partitioning are important mechanisms contributing to species co-occurrence in nectar yeast communities.