By studying rapidly evolving bacteria as they diversify and compete under varying environmental conditions, researchers have shown that temporal niches are important to maintaining biodiversity in natural systems. The research is believed to be the first experimental demonstration of temporal niche dynamics promoting biodiversity over evolutionary time scales.
The temporal niches – changes in environmental conditions that occur during specific periods of time – promoted frequency-dependent selection within the bacterial communities and positive growth of new mutants. They played a vital role in allowing diversity among bacterial phenotypes to persist.
The research provides new insights into the factors that promote species coexistence and diversity in natural systems. Understanding the mechanisms governing the origin and maintenance of biodiversity is important to scientists studying the roles of bothecology and evolution in natural systems.
“This study provides the first experimental evidence showing the impact of temporal niche dynamics on biodiversity evolution,” said Lin Jiang, co-author of the paper and an associate professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Our laboratory results in bacteria can potentially explain the diversity dynamics that have been observed for other organisms over evolutionary time.”
The research, which was supported by the National Science Foundation, was scheduled to be published July 9 in the journal Nature Communications.
In experimental manipulation of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens, the researchers showed that alternating environmental conditions in 24-hour cycles strongly influences biodiversity dynamics by helping to maintain closely-related phenotypes that might otherwise be lost to competition with a dominant phenotype. The experiment followed the bacteria through more than 200 generations over a period of nearly two weeks.
Read more at: Phys.org