Taxon in disguise

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
hypothetical example of a taxa in disguise
A group





Example of a taxa in disguise: phylogenetically the B is part of the A group, but taxonomically is not, making the A group paraphyletic.

In bacteriology, a taxon in disguise is a species, genus or higher unit of biological classification whose evolutionary history reveals has evolved from another unit of similar or lower rank, making the parent unit paraphyletic.[1][2] This happens when rapid evolution makes a new species appear radically different from the ancestral group, so that it is not (initially) recognised as belonging to the parent phylogenetic group, leaving the latter an evolutionary grade.

While the term is from bacteriology, parallel examples are found throughout the tree of life. E.g. four-footed animals have evolved from piscine ancestors, yet are not generally considered fish. The four footed animals can thus be said to be "fish in disguise". In many cases, the paraphyly can be resolved by re-classifying the taxon in question under the parent group, but in bacteriology renaming groups may have serious consequences as it may cause confusion over the identity of pathogens, and is generally avoided for some groups.

Examples of taxa in disguise in medically relevant microbial taxa[edit]


The bacterial genus Shigella is the cause of bacillary dysentery, a potentially severe infection that claim the lives of over a million people annually.[3] The genus (S. dysenteriae, S. flexneri, S. boydii, S. sonnei) have evolved from the common intestinal bacterium Escherichia coli, rendering that species parephyletic. E. coli itself can also cause serious dysentery,[4] but the difference in the genetic makeup between the E. coli and Shigella causes different medical conditions and symptoms.[2]

Escherichia coli is a badly classified species, since some strains share only 20% of their genome. Being so diverse it should be given a higher taxonomic ranking. However, due to the medical conditions associated both with E. coli itself and with Shigella the current classification will not be changed, to avoid confusion in medical context. Shigella will thus remain "E. coli in disguise".

B. cereus-group[edit]

In a similar way, the Bacillus species of the B. cereus-group (B. anthracis, B. cereus, B . thuringiensis, B. mycoides, B. pseudomycoides, B. weihenstephanensis and B. medusa) have 99-100% similar 16S rRNA sequence (97% is a commonly cited adequate species cut-off) and should be considered a single species.[5] Some of the members of the group appear to have arisen from other Bacillus strains by acquisition of a protein coding plasmid and the group may thus be polyphyletic. For medical reasons (anthrax etc.), the current arrangement of separate species remain.[5]

Examples of microbes in disguise due to large genera[edit]

  • The bacterial genus Pseudomonas has enlarged through several generations of taxonomic methods, bringing the species count to alarming proportions, with around 800 species recognized by the middle of the 20th century.[6][7] The nitrogen-fixing bacteria of the genus Azotobacter and the species Azomonas macrocytogenes have evolved from a species in the genus Pseudomonas.[8] Due to its nitrogen fixing capabilities and deviant features, Azotobacter has been described as "Pseudomonas in disguise".[1]
  • The genus Bacillus is a genus described early on in the history of microbiology, and is as a consequence a large and gentically very diverse genus with 266 species.[9] The two genera Paenibacillus and Brevibacillus are nested clades within the Bacillus genus.[10] Bacillus being highly medically relevant and Paenibacillus a model organism used in research, renaming them to reflect phylogeny would result in confusion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rediers, H; Vanderleyden, J; De Mot, R (2004). "Azotobacter vinelandii: a Pseudomonas in disguise?". Microbiology. 150 (Pt 5): 1117–9. doi:10.1099/mic.0.27096-0. PMID 15133068. 
  2. ^ a b Lan, R; Reeves, PR (2002). "Escherichia coli in disguise: molecular origins of Shigella". Microbes and infection / Institut Pasteur. 4 (11): 1125–32. doi:10.1016/S1286-4579(02)01637-4. PMID 12361912. 
  3. ^ World Health Organization. Shigellosis.
  4. ^ Tauschek M, Gorrell R, Robins-Browne RM (May 2002). "Identification of a protein secretory pathway for the secretion of heat-labile enterotoxin by an enterotoxigenic strain of Escherichia coli". PNAS. 99 (10): 7066–71. doi:10.1073/pnas.092152899. PMC 124529Freely accessible. PMID 12011463. 
  5. ^ a b Bavykin, S. G.; Lysov, Y. P.; Zakhariev, V.; Kelly, J. J.; Jackman, J.; Stahl, D. A.; Cherni, A. (2004). "Use of 16S rRNA, 23S rRNA, and gyrB Gene Sequence Analysis to Determine Phylogenetic Relationships of Bacillus cereus Group Microorganisms". Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 42 (8): 3711–30. doi:10.1128/JCM.42.8.3711-3730.2004. PMC 497648Freely accessible. PMID 15297521. 
  6. ^ Palleroni, N. J. (2010). "The Pseudomonas Story". Environmental Microbiology. 12 (6): 1377–1383. doi:10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.02041.x. PMID 20553550. 
  7. ^ Cornelis P (editor) (2008). Pseudomonas: Genomics and Molecular Biology (1st ed.). Caister Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-904455-19-6. 
  8. ^ Young, J. M.; Park, D. -C. (2007). "Probable synonymy of the nitrogen-fixing genus Azotobacter and the genus Pseudomonas". International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 57 (12): 2894–2901. doi:10.1099/ijs.0.64969-0. PMID 18048745. 
  9. ^ Bacillus entry in LPSN [Euzéby, J.P. (1997). "List of Bacterial Names with Standing in Nomenclature: a folder available on the Internet". Int J Syst Bacteriol. 47 (2): 590–2. doi:10.1099/00207713-47-2-590. ISSN 0020-7713. PMID 9103655. ]
  10. ^ Xu, D; Côté, JC (2003). "Phylogenetic relationships between Bacillus species and related genera inferred from comparison of 3' end 16S rDNA and 5' end 16S-23S ITS nucleotide sequences". International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 53 (Pt 3): 695–704. doi:10.1099/ijs.0.02346-0. PMID 12807189.