Although many examples of trait loss exist in nature, the underlying population genetic mechanism responsible for the loss is usually unknown. Selective or neutral processes can result in the deterioration of a trait, and often one of these is inferred based on indirect evidence. Furthermore, selective pressures that are unique to particular environments and the effect these might have on the population genetic cause of trait loss are not well understood. Here we describe an experimental evolution system where two different environments were used for addressing the population genetic cause of trait loss throughout evolutionary time. We found that growth in minimal medium (i.e., prototrophy) was lost in all populations regardless of the experimental environment and that the pattern of trait loss in one environment was due to selection, whereas in the other environment the cause remains inconclusive.
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Vol. 60 • No. 4