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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Sep 13;91(19):9037-41.

Evidence for multiple adaptive peaks from populations of bacteria evolving in a structured habitat.

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  • 1Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824-1325.


Natural selection tends to promote the divergence of populations living in different environments. Even in identical environments, however, replicate populations may diverge if they find alternative adaptive solutions. We describe the evolution of 18 bacterial populations (Comamonas sp.) founded from a single progenitor genotype and propagated separately for 1000 generations in two distinct environments, one physically unstructured (mass-action liquid) and the other structured (agar surfaces). Phenotypic diversity, as reflected in colony morphology, was greater in the structured habitat than in the unstructured habitat. More importantly, the trajectories for mean fitness, as measured by competition against the common ancestor, were more divergent for populations in the structured habitat than those in the unstructured habitat. Structured environments may accelerate evolutionary diversification by promoting genetic polymorphisms within populations, thereby increasing the complexity of genetic constraints that allow divergence among replicate populations.

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