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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Nov 7;274(1626):2761-7.

Evolution of a single niche specialist in variable environments.

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  • 1Department of Biology and Center for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 6N5.


The pattern (space versus time) and scale (relative to the lifetime of individuals) of environmental variation is thought to play a central role in governing the evolution of the ecological niche and the maintenance of genetic variance in fitness. To evaluate this idea, we serially propagated an initially genetically uniform population of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens for a few hundred generations in environments that differed in both the pattern and scale at which two highly contrasted carbon substrates were experienced. We found that, contrary to expectations, populations often evolved into a single niche specialist adapted to the less-productive substrate in variable environments and that the genetic variance in fitness across different components of the environment was not generally higher in variable environments when compared with constant environments. We provide evidence to suggest that our results reflect a novel constraint on niche evolution imposed by the supply of beneficial mutations available to selection in variable environments.

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