Spatial structure inhibits the rate of invasion of beneficial mutations in asexual populations

Michelle G.J.L. Habets, Tamás Czárán, Rolf F. Hoekstra, J. Arjan G.M. De Visser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)


Populations in spatially structured environments may be divided into a number of (semi-) isolated subpopulations due to limited offspring dispersal. Limited dispersal and, as a consequence, local competition could slow down the invasion of fitter mutants, allowing the short-term coexistence of ancestral genotypes and mutants. We determined the rate of invasion of beneficial mutants of Escherichia coli, dispersed to different degrees in a spatially structured environment during 40 generations, experimentally and theoretically. Simulations as well as experimental data show a decrease in the rate of invasion with increasingly constrained dispersal. When a beneficial mutant invades from a single spot, competition with the ancestral genotype takes place only along the edges of the growing colony patch. As the colony grows, the fitness of the mutant will decrease due to a decrease in the mutant's fraction that effectively competes with the surrounding ancestor. Despite its inherently higher competitive ability, increased intragenotype competition prevents the beneficial mutant from rapidly taking over, causing short-term coexistence of superior and inferior genotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2139-2143
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1622
Publication statusPublished - Sep 7 2007



  • Dispersal
  • Rate of invasion
  • Spatial structure
  • Species coexistence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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