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Speciation trajectories in recombining bacterial species.

Abstract

It is generally agreed that bacterial diversity can be classified into genetically and ecologically cohesive units, but what produces such variation is a topic of intensive research. Recombination may maintain coherent species of frequently recombining bacteria, but the emergence of distinct clusters within a recombining species, and the impact of habitat structure in this process are not well described, limiting our understanding of how new species are created. Here we present a model of bacterial evolution in overlapping habitat space. We show that the amount of habitat overlap determines the outcome for a pair of clusters, which may range from fast clonal divergence with little interaction between the clusters to a stationary population structure, where different clusters maintain an equilibrium distance between each other for an indefinite time. We fit our model to two data sets. In Streptococcus pneumoniae, we find a genomically and ecologically distinct subset, held at a relatively constant genetic distance from the majority of the population through frequent recombination with it, while in Campylobacter jejuni, we find a minority population we predict will continue to diverge at a higher rate. This approach may predict and define speciation trajectories in multiple bacterial species.

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