Approximately 280 Escherichia coli isolates were isolated from a bovine feedlot at the University of Connecticut campus via enrichment in lauryl tryptose broth and random selection from MacConkey plates. The E. coli subspecies diversity was estimated by employing whole-cell BOX-PCR genomic fingerprints. A total of 89 distinct operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were identified by employing a criterion of 85 % fingerprint similarity as a surrogate for an OTU, while the Chao1 index estimated the E. coli population richness at 128 OTUs. One genotype (at a similarity level of 60%) dominated the population at 66 % regardless of sampling depth or location, while no significant vertical distribution pattern was observed in terms of genotype, mobility, antibiotic resistance profile, or biofilm-forming ability. Motility, measured by a soft agar assay, had a very broad range among the E. coli population and was positively correlated with biofilm-forming ability in minimal medium (Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient r � 0.619, P <10 �4) but not in Luria broth. Only an estimated 48 % of the population possessed gene agn43, which encodes Ag43, a phase-variable outer membrane protein that has been implicated in biofilm formation in minimal medium. We observed significantly more biofilm formation in both minimal medium and Luria broth for agn43 � strains, with a larger effect in minimal medium. This study represents an exhaustive inventory of extant E. coli population diversity at a bovine feedlot and reveals significant subspecies heterogeneity in interfacial behavior
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