Clonal Adaptive Radiation in a Constant Environment

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Science  28 Jul 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5786, pp. 514-517
DOI: 10.1126/science.1129865

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The evolution of new combinations of bacterial properties contributes to biodiversity and the emergence of new diseases. We investigated the capacity for bacterial divergence with a chemostat culture of Escherichia coli. A clonal population radiated into more than five phenotypic clusters within 26 days, with multiple variations in global regulation, metabolic strategies, surface properties, and nutrient permeability pathways. Most isolates belonged to a single ecotype, and neither periodic selection events nor ecological competition for a single niche prevented an adaptive radiation with a single resource. The multidirectional exploration of fitness space is an underestimated ingredient to bacterial success even in unstructured environments.

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