• Research
  • Biological Physics

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have produced the most precise picture to date of population dynamics in fluctuating feast-or-famine conditions. Professor Seppe Kuehn, a biological physicist, and his graduate student Jason Merritt found that bacterial population density is a function of both the frequency and the amplitude of nutrient fluctuations. They found that the more frequent the feast cycles and the longer a feast cycle, the more rapid the population recovery from a famine state. This result has important implications for understanding how microbial populations cope with the constant nutrient fluctuations they experience in nature.

  • Research

While heritable genetic mutations can alter phenotypic traits and enable populations to adapt to their environment, adaptation is frequently limited by trade-offs: a mutation advantageous to one trait might be detrimental to another.

Because of the interplay between the selection pressures present in complex environments and the trade-offs constraining phenotypes, predicting evolutionary dynamics is difficult.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have shown how evolutionary dynamics proceed when selection acts on two traits governed by a trade-off. The results move the life sciences a step closer to understanding the full complexity of evolution at the cellular level.