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Adaptation and incipient sympatric speciation of Bacillus simplex under microclimatic contrast at “Evolution Canyons” I and II, Israel

  • Johannes Sikorski
  • Eviatar Nevo
National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
Oct 25, 2005
  • Biology
  • Ecology


The microevolutionary dynamics of prokaryotes in natural habitats, such as soil, is poorly understood in contrast to our increasing knowledge on their immense diversity. We performed microevolutionary analyses on 945 soil isolates of Bacillus simplex from “Evolution Canyons” I (Carmel, Israel) and II (Galilee, Israel). These canyons represent similar ecological replicates, separated by 40 km, with highly contrasting interslope abiotic and biotic conditions in each (within a distance of only 100–400 m). Strains representing genetic groups were identical in their 16S sequences, suggesting high genetic similarity and monophyletic origin. Parallel and nested phylogenetic structures correlated with ecological contrasts rather than geographical distance. Additionally, slope-specific populations differed substantially in their diversity. The levels of DNA repair (determined by UV sensitivity) and spontaneous mutation rate (resistance to rifampicin) relate to ecological stress and phylogeny. Altogether, the results suggest adaptive radiation at a microscale. We discuss the observed adaptive population structures in the context of incipient sympatric speciation in soil bacteria. We conclude that, despite different biology, prokaryotes, like sexually reproducing eukaryotes, may consist of true species and parallel ecological speciation in eukaryotes.

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