Barriers to microbial migrations can lead adaptive radiations and increased endemism. We propose that extreme unbalanced nutrient stoichiometry of essential nutrients can be a barrier to microbial immigration over geological timescales. At the oasis in the Cuatro Ciénegas Basin in Mexico, nutrient stoichiometric proportions are skewed given the low phosphorus availability in the ecosystem. We show that this endangered oasis can be a model for a lost world. The ancient niche of extreme unbalanced nutrient stoichiometry favoured survival of ancestral microorganisms. This extreme nutrient imbalance persisted due to environmental stability and low extinction rates, generating a diverse and unique bacterial community. Several endemic clades of Bacillus invaded the Cuatro Cienegas region in two geological times, the late Precambrian and the Jurassic. Other lineages of Bacillus, Clostridium and Bacteroidetes migrated into the basin in isolated events. Cuatro Ciénegas Basin conservation is vital to the understanding of early evolutionary and ecological processes.
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© Souza et al.