Chapter 7 : The Least Common Denominator: Species or Operational Taxonomic Units?

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Molecular techniques have given microbial ecologists an entirely new dimension for understanding natural ecosystems. This chapter discusses the common terms used by microbial ecologists to describe diversity, and attempts to explain their virtues and pitfalls. The first classification system was devised by Aristotle at least 2,400 years ago who generated the first hierarchy based on creationist and essential tenets. This system was based on only the two categories "species" and "genus," which were motivated by recurrent observations about the world. The current prokaryotic species concept fulfils the requisites of being universally applicable to the cellular nuclei-less microorganisms. In this chapter, the different terms used by microbial ecologists to name the units that they observe, their suitability, and which of them may (from our point of view) have an optimal applicability, are discussed. It is possible that a single observed band contains up to three different sequences or viceversa where an identical sequence can appear in different bands. There is a growing group of scientists who prefer the use of operational taxonomic unit (OTU) to name their units of comparison.

Citation: Rosselló-Mora R, López-López A. 2008. The Least Common Denominator: Species or Operational Taxonomic Units?, p 117-130. In Zengler K (ed), Accessing Uncultivated Microorganisms. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815509.ch7
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