Ecological conditions affect evolutionary trajectory in a predator-prey system

Romain Gallet, Thomas Tully, Margaret E.K. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The arms race of adaptation and counter adaptation in predator-prey interactions is a fascinating evolutionary dynamic with many consequences, including local adaptation and the promotion or maintenance of diversity. Although such antagonistic coevolution is suspected to be widespread in nature, experimental documentation of the process remains scant, and we have little understanding of the impact of ecological conditions. Here, we present evidence of predator-prey coevolution in a long-term experiment involving the predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus and the prey Pseudomonas fluorescens, which has three morphs (SM, FS, and WS). Depending on experimentally applied disturbance regimes, the predator-prey system followed two distinct evolutionary trajectories, where the prey evolved to be either super-resistant to predation (SM morph) without counter-adaptation by the predator, or moderately resistant (FS morph), specialized to and coevolving with the predator. Although predation-resistant FS morphs suffer a cost of resistance, the evolution of extreme resistance to predation by the SM morph was apparently unconstrained by other traits (carrying capacity, growth rate). Thus we demonstrate empirically that ecological conditions can shape the evolutionary trajectory of a predator-prey system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-651
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Antagonistic coevolution
  • Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus
  • Disturbance
  • Experimental evolution
  • Pseudomonas fluorescens
  • Trade-off evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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