Growing bacterial populations diversify to produce a number of competing lineages. In the Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 model system, Wrinkly Spreader mutant lineages, capable of colonising the air-liquid interface of static microcosms by biofilm-formation, rapidly appear in diversifying populations with a fitness advantage over the ancestral wild-type strain. Similarly, a biofilm is rapidly produced by a community containing many biofilm-competent members, and selection by serial transfer of biofilm samples across microcosms results in a gradually changing community structure. Both the adaptive radiation producing Wrinkly Spreaders and the succession of biofilm communities in these static microcosms can be understood through evolutionary ecology in which ecological interactions and evolutionary processes are combined. Such eco-evolutionary dynamics are especially important for bacteria, as rapid growth, high population densities and strong selection in the context of infections can lead to fast changes in disease progression and resistance phenotypes, while similar changes in community function may also affect many microbially mediated biotechnological and industrial processes. Evolutionary ecology provides an understanding of why bacterial biofilms are so prevalent and why they are such a successful colonisation strategy, and it can be directly linked to molecular analyses to understand the importance of pathways and responses involved in biofilm-formation.
Part of the book: Bacterial Biofilms