Bacteria-Phage Antagonistic Coevolution in Soil

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Science  01 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6025, pp. 106-109
DOI: 10.1126/science.1198767

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Bacteria and their viruses (phages) undergo rapid coevolution in test tubes, but the relevance to natural environments is unclear. By using a “mark-recapture” approach, we showed rapid coevolution of bacteria and phages in a soil community. Unlike coevolution in vitro, which is characterized by increases in infectivity and resistance through time (arms race dynamics), coevolution in soil resulted in hosts more resistant to their contemporary than past and future parasites (fluctuating selection dynamics). Fluctuating selection dynamics, which can potentially continue indefinitely, can be explained by fitness costs constraining the evolution of high levels of resistance in soil. These results suggest that rapid coevolution between bacteria and phage is likely to play a key role in structuring natural microbial communities.

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