Table of Contents
International Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 4846565, 10 pages
Research Article

New Insights into the Effects of Several Environmental Parameters on the Relative Fitness of a Numerically Dominant Class of Evolved Niche Specialist

1School of Science, Engineering and Technology, Abertay University, Bell Street, Dundee DD1 1HG, UK
2Department of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection, University of Łódź, Łódź, Poland

Received 30 September 2016; Accepted 24 November 2016

Academic Editor: Santiago F. Elena

Copyright © 2016 Anna Kuśmierska and Andrew J. Spiers. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Adaptive radiation in bacteria has been investigated using Wrinkly Spreaders (WS), a morphotype which colonises the air-liquid (A-L) interface of static microcosms by biofilm formation with a significant fitness advantage over competitors growing lower down in the O2-limited liquid column. Here, we investigate several environmental parameters which impact the ecological opportunity that the Wrinkly Spreaders exploit in this model system. Manipulation of surface area/volume ratios suggests that the size of the WS niche was not as important as the ability to dominate the A-L interface and restrict competitor growth. The value of this niche to the Wrinkly Spreaders, as determined by competitive fitness assays, was found to increase as O2 flux to the A-L interface was reduced, confirming that competition for O2 was the main driver of WS fitness. The effect of O2 on fitness was also found to be dependent on the availability of nutrients, reflecting the need to take up both for optimal growth. Finally, the meniscus trap, a high-O2 region formed by the interaction of the A-L interface with the vial walls, was also important for fitness during the early stages of biofilm formation. These findings reveal the complexity of this seemingly simple model system and illustrate how changes in environmental physicality alter ecological opportunity and the fitness of the adaptive morphotype.