Determining the mechanisms that promote the evolution of diversity is a central problem in evolutionary biology. Previous studies have demonstrated that diversification occurs in complex environments and that genotypes specialized on alternative resources can be maintained over short time scales. Here, we describe a selection experiment that has tracked the dynamics of adaptive diversification within selection lines of the asexual bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens over about 900 generations. We cultured experimental populations from the same two isogenic ancestral strains in simple, single-substrate environments or in complex, four-substrate environments. Following selection we assayed the growth of genotypes from each population on each substrate individually. We estimated mutational heritability, Vm/VE, as 1 × 10−3 per generation in simple environments and 3 × 10−3 per generation in complex environments. These values are roughly consistent with estimates reported in other systems. Populations selected in complex environments evolved into genetically diverse communities. Genotypes exhibited greater metabolic differentiation from other genotypes in their own population than to genotypes evolving in other populations, presumably as a result of resource competition. In populations selected in simple environments, little genetic diversity evolved, and genotypes shared very similar phenotypes. Our findings suggest that ecological opportunity provided by environmental complexity plays a major role in the evolution and maintenance of diversity.
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Vol. 60 • No. 3