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Extent of adaptation is not limited by unpredictability of the environment in laboratory populations of Escherichia coli

Karve, Shraddha M., Bhave, Devika, Dey, Sutirth
Journal of evolutionary biology 2018 v.31 no.9 pp. 1420-1426
Escherichia coli, pH, temperature
Environmental variability is on the rise in different parts of the earth, and the survival of many species depends on how well they cope with these fluctuations. Our current understanding of how organisms adapt to unpredictably fluctuating environments is almost entirely based on studies that investigate fluctuations among different values of a single environmental stressor such as temperature or pH. How would unpredictability affect adaptation when the environment fluctuates between qualitatively very different kinds of stresses? To answer this question, we subjected laboratory populations of Escherichia coli to selection over ~ 260 generations. The populations faced predictable and unpredictable environmental fluctuations across qualitatively different selection environments, namely, salt and acidic pH. We show that predictability of environmental fluctuations does not play a role in determining the extent of adaptation, although the extent of ancestral adaptation to the chosen selection environments is of key importance.