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Experimental demonstration of the impact of hard and soft selection regimes on polymorphism maintenance in spatially heterogeneous environments

Abstract : Predicting and managing contemporary adaption requires a proper understanding of the determinants of genetic variation. Spatial heterogeneity of the environment may stably maintain polymorphism when habitat contribution to the next generation can be considered independent of the degree of adaptation of local populations within habitats (i.e., under soft selection). In contrast, when habitats contribute proportionally to the mean fitness of the populations they host (hard selection), polymorphism is not expected to be maintained by selection. Although mathematically established decades ago, this prediction had never been demonstrated experimentally. Here we provide an experimental test in which polymorphic populations of Escherichia coli growing in heterogeneous habitats were exposed to hard and soft selection regimes. As predicted by theory, polymorphism was preserved longer under soft selection. Complementary tests established that soft selection slowed fixation processes and could even protect polymorphism in the long term by providing a systematic advantage to rare genotypes.
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Romain Gallet, Rémy Froissart, Virginie Ravigné. Experimental demonstration of the impact of hard and soft selection regimes on polymorphism maintenance in spatially heterogeneous environments. Evolution - International Journal of Organic Evolution, Wiley, 2018, 72 (8), pp.1677-1688. ⟨10.1111/evo.13513⟩. ⟨hal-02623091⟩

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