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Evolution of Generalists by Phenotypic Plasticity.


ABSTRACT: Adapting organisms face a tension between specializing their phenotypes for certain ecological tasks and developing generalist strategies that permit persistence in multiple environmental conditions. Understanding when and how generalists or specialists evolve is an important question in evolutionary dynamics. Here, we study the evolution of bacterial range expansions by selecting Escherichia coli for faster migration through porous media containing one of four different sugars supporting growth and chemotaxis. We find that selection in any one sugar drives the evolution of faster migration in all sugars. Measurements of growth and motility of all evolved lineages in all nutrient conditions reveal that the ubiquitous evolution of fast migration arises via phenotypic plasticity. Phenotypic plasticity permits evolved strains to exploit distinct strategies to achieve fast migration in each environment, irrespective of the environment in which they were evolved. Therefore, selection in a homogeneous environment drives phenotypic plasticity that improves performance in other environments.

SUBMITTER: Fraebel DT 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC7600391 | BioStudies | 2020-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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