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Genetics. 2002 Oct;162(2):961-71.

Evaluating the impact of population bottlenecks in experimental evolution.

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Applied Mathematics, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.


Experimental evolution involves severe, periodic reductions in population size when fresh media are inoculated during serial transfer. These bottlenecks affect the dynamics of evolution, reducing the probability that a beneficial mutation will reach fixation. We quantify the impact of these bottlenecks on the evolutionary dynamics, for populations that grow exponentially between transfers and for populations in which growth is curbed by a resource-limited environment. We find that in both cases, mutations that survive bottlenecks are equally likely to occur, per unit time, at all times during the growth phase. We estimate the total fraction of beneficial mutations that are lost due to bottlenecks during experimental evolution protocols and derive the "optimal" dilution ratio, the ratio that maximizes the number of surviving beneficial mutations. Although more severe dilution ratios are often used in the literature, we find that a ratio of 0.1-0.2 minimizes the chances that rare beneficial mutations are lost. Finally, we provide a number of useful approximate results and illustrate our approach with applications to experimental evolution protocols in the literature.

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