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Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 2002 Aug;81(1-4):107-15.

Trade-offs and coexistence in microbial microcosms.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, CA 94305-5029, USA.


Trade-offs among the abilities of organisms to respond to different environmental factors are often assumed to play a major role in the coexistence of species. There has been extensive theoretical study of the role of such trade-offs in ecological communities but it has proven difficult to study such trade-offs experimentally. Microorganisms are ideal model systems with which to experimentally study the causes and consequences of ecological trade-offs. In model communities of E. coli B and T-type bacteriophage, a trade-off in E. coli between resistance to bacteriophage and competitive ability is often observed. This trade-off can allow the coexistence of different ecological types of E. coli. The magnitude of this trade-off affects, in predictable ways, the structure, dynamics and response to environmental change of these communities. Genetic factors, environmental factors, and gene-by-environment interactions determine the magnitude of this trade-off. Environmental control of the magnitude of trade-offs represents one avenue by which environmental change can alter community properties such as invasability, stability and coexistence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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