Fluorescence microscopy reveals the surface of a single synthetic particle colonized by wild marine microorganisms (green), which are fluorescently labeled with a double-stranded DNA stain.A team of MIT researchers — including Professors Otto X. Cordero and Martin Polz, and Postdoctoral Associate Manoshi S. Datta — conducted research that shows how bacteria from the ocean assemble into multispecies communities around particles of organic matter, and how these communities could shape particle degradation and impact oceanic carbon cycles. “Our results suggest that the existing ecological theory developed for plant communities that extend over scales of kilometers, may be applicable to microbial communities congregated on particles of tens of microns in size,” says Cordero, the lead senior author on this work. “We observe that, because of the dynamics of community assembly, most taxa that become abundant on particles do not degrade the substrate, but instead live from nutrients released by other bacteria, potentially excluding the actual degraders and retarding the recycling of organic matter in the ocean. This shows how the community ecology at microscales can have significant impact on global biogeochemical cycles.” Read more on MIT News.