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Evolution. 2013 Jan;67(1):10-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01742.x. Epub 2012 Aug 10.

Migration enhances adaptation in bacteriophage populations evolving in ecological sinks.

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Department of Biology, Queens College, Flushing, NY 11358, USA.


Migration between populations can be a major evolutionary force. However, some disagreement exists as to precisely how migration affects population adaptation. Some theories emphasize the inhibitory effects of gene flow between locally adapted populations, whereas others propose that migration can enhance adaptation. Migration has also been theorized to rescue sink populations from extinction. In our experiments, we serially passaged bacteriophage Φ6 host range mutants under sink conditions on a novel host while manipulating the source and number of migrants into these experimental populations. Migrants from two sources were used: mutant Φ6 phage able to infect a novel host (treatment) and wild-type Φ6 phage unable to infect a novel host (control). We used quadratic regressions to determine the relationship between the number of migrants per passage and the absolute fitnesses of experimental populations following 30 passages. Our results showed that migration from a control population had no effect on absolute fitnesses of our serially passaged populations following 30 passages. By contrast, the relationship between migrants per passage and absolute fitnesses for populations receiving migrants able to infect the novel host was best described by an upwardly concave curve. These results suggest that intermediate levels of migration can have favorable impacts on evolutionary adaptation.

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