Roller, B. R. and T. M. Schmidt. 2015. The physiology and ecological implications of efficient growth. The ISME Journal 9:1481-1487.
The natural habitats of microbes are typically spatially structured with limited resources, so opportunities for unconstrained, balanced growth are rare. In these habitats, selection should favor microbes that are able to use resources most efficiently, that is, microbes that produce the most progeny per unit of resource consumed. On the basis of this assertion, we propose that selection for efficiency is a primary driver of the composition of microbial communities. In this article, we review how the quality and quantity of resources influence the efficiency of heterotrophic growth. A conceptual model proposing innate differences in growth efficiency between oligotrophic and copiotrophic microbes is also provided. We conclude that elucidation of the mechanisms underlying efficient growth will enhance our understanding of the selective pressures shaping microbes and will improve our capacity to manage microbial communities effectively.
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