On the necessity to study natural bacterial populations - The model of Bacillus simplex from "Evolution Canyons" I and II, Israel

Johannes Sikorski, Eviatar Nevo

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How do bacteria evolve and speciate in natural environments? How does bacterial evolution relate to bacterial systematics? Exploring these answers is essential because bacteria profoundly impact life in general and, in particular, that of humans. Much insight into bacterial microevolution has come from theoretical and computational studies and from multigenerational laboratory systems ("Experimental Evolution"). These studies, however, do not take into account the diversity of modes of how bacteria can evolve under the complexity of the real world, i.e., nature. We argue, therefore, that for a comprehensive understanding of bacterial microevolution, it is essential to study natural populations. We underline our argument by introducing the Bacillus simplex model from "Evolution Canyon", Israel. This metapopulation splits into different evolutionary lineages that have adapted to the microclimatically different slopes of "Evolution Canyon". It was shown that temperature stress is a major environmental factor driving the B. simplex adaptation and speciation progress. Therefore, this model population has proven highly suitable to study bacterial microevolution in natural habitats. Finally, we discuss the B. simplex intrapopulation divergence of lineages in light of current controversies on bacterial species concepts and taxon identification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-542
Number of pages16
JournalIsrael Journal of Ecology and Evolution
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
J.S. is grateful for dFG-grant SI 1352/1-1, and E.N. is grateful for a grant from the Ancell–Teicher Research Foundation for Genetics and Molecular Evolution. We thank klaus Harms, Aharon Oren, Shimshon belkin, and Edouard Jurkevitch for constructive remarks, and Robin Permut for editing the English. This manuscript is a contribution to the International Conference Workshop “New Horizons in Evolutionary biology”, held 23–25 January 2007 at the University of Haifa, Israel.


  • "Evolution Canyon"
  • Bacillus simplex
  • Environmental stress
  • Natural bacterial populations
  • Stable ecotype model
  • Theory-based modern taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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