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Larger bacterial populations evolve heavier fitness trade-offs and undergo greater ecological specialization.

08:00 EDT 18th March 2020 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "Larger bacterial populations evolve heavier fitness trade-offs and undergo greater ecological specialization."

Evolutionary studies over the last several decades have invoked fitness trade-offs to explain why species prefer some environments to others. However, the effects of population size on trade-offs and ecological specialization remain largely unknown. To complicate matters, trade-offs themselves have been visualized in multiple ways in the literature. Thus, it is not clear how population size can affect the various aspects of trade-offs. To address these issues, we conducted experimental evolution with Escherichia coli populations of two different sizes in two nutritionally limited environments, and studied fitness trade-offs from three different perspectives. We found that larger populations evolved greater fitness trade-offs, regardless of how trade-offs are conceptualized. Moreover, although larger populations adapted more to their selection conditions, they also became more maladapted to other environments, ultimately paying heavier costs of adaptation. To enhance the generalizability of our results, we further investigated the evolution of ecological specialization across six different environmental pairs, and found that larger populations specialized more frequently and evolved consistently steeper reaction norms of fitness. This is the first study to demonstrate a relationship between population size and fitness trade-offs, and the results are important in understanding the population genetics of ecological specialization and vulnerability to environmental changes.

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Name: Heredity
ISSN: 1365-2540
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