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Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology
The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Environment
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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Community composition of microbial microcosms follows simple assembly rules at evolutionary timescales

Citation:

Date Published:

2021

Abstract:

Managing and engineering microbial communities relies on the ability to predict their composition. While progress has been made on predicting compositions on short, ecological timescales, there is still little work aimed at predicting compositions on evolutionary timescales. Therefore, it is still unknown for how long communities typically remain stable after reaching ecological equilibrium, and how repeatable and predictable are changes when they occur. Here, we address this knowledge gap by tracking the composition of 87 two- and three-species bacterial communities, with 3–18 replicates each, for ~400 generations. We find that community composition typically changed during evolution, but that the composition of replicate communities remained similar. Furthermore, these changes were predictable in a bottom-up approach—changes in the composition of trios were consistent with those that occurred in pairs during coevolution. Our results demonstrate that simple assembly rules can hold even on evolutionary timescales, suggesting it may be possible to forecast the evolution of microbial communities.

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