How do microbes grow in nature?  The role of population dynamics in microbial ecology and evolution

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Justus Wilhelm Fink, Michael Manhart 


The growth of microbial populations in nature is dynamic, as the cellular physiology and environment of these populations change. Population dynamics have wide-ranging consequences for ecology and evolution, determining how species interact and which mutations fix. Understanding these dynamics is also critical for clinical and environmental applications in which we need to promote or inhibit microbial growth. We first address the latest efforts and outstanding challenges in measuring microbial population dynamics in natural environments. We next summarize fundamental concepts and empirical data on how population dynamics both shape, and are shaped by, evolutionary processes. Finally, we discuss the role of tradeoffs in microbial population dynamics, which may reveal physiological constraints and help to maintain ecological diversity. We find that current evidence for tradeoffs in population dynamics is limited, but that consideration of the evolutionary context of these tradeoffs is necessary for designing future experiments that can better address this problem.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology Life Sciences, Evolution, Life Sciences, Microbiology, Systems Biology


microbes, population growth, natural environments, microbial ecology, microbial evolution, Tradeoffs


Published: 2023-02-26 06:15

Last Updated: 2023-06-24 23:13

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CC-By Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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