Bacteria undergo adaptive diversification over a matter of days in test tubes, but the relevance to natural populations remains unclear. Here, we report real-time adaptive diversification of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens in its natural environment, soil. Crucially, adaptive diversification was much greater in the absence of the established natural microbial community, suggesting that resident diversity is likely to inhibit, rather than promote, adaptive radiations in natural environments. Rapid diversification is therefore likely to play an important role in the population and community dynamics of microbes in environments where resident communities are perturbed, such as by agriculture, pollution and antibiotics.
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