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PLoS One. 2007 Feb 7;2(2):e193.

Niche occupation limits adaptive radiation in experimental microcosms.

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School of Biological Sciences, Biosciences Building, University of Liverpool, Crown Street, Liverpool, United Kingdom.


Adaptive radiations have played a key role in the evolution of biological diversity. The breadth of adaptive radiation in an invading lineage is likely to be influenced by the availability of ecological niches, which will be determined to some extent by the diversity of the resident community. High resident diversity may result in existing ecological niches being filled, inhibiting subsequent adaptive radiation. Conversely, high resident diversity could result in the creation of novel ecological niches or an increase in within niche competition driving niche partitioning, thus promoting subsequent diversification. We tested the role of resident diversity on adaptive radiations in experimental populations of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens that readily diversify into a range of niche specialists when grown in a heterogeneous environment. We allowed an undiversified strain to invade resident communities that varied in the number of niche specialists. The breadth of adaptive radiation attainable by an invading lineage decreased with increasing niche occupation of the resident community. Our results highlight the importance of niche occupation as a constraint on adaptive radiation.

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