Patterns of thermal adaptation of Bacillus simplex to the microclimatically contrasting slopes of 'Evolution Canyons' I and II, Israel

Environ Microbiol. 2007 Mar;9(3):716-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2006.01193.x.


Identification of selective forces that drive evolution and speciation of bacteria in natural habitats is a central issue in bacterial ecology and evolution. Exploring the adaptive evolution of Bacillus simplex at 'Evolution Canyons' I and II, Israel, we report here on the impact of high heat stress on the speciation progress of individual evolutionary lineages. These canyons represent similar ecological replicates, separated by 40 km, in which the orientation of the sun yields a strong sun-exposed and hot 'African' south-facing slope (SFS) versus a rather cooler and mesic-lush 'European' north-facing slope (NFS) within a distance of only 50-100 m at the bottom and 400 m at the top. Among 131 strains studied, in Luria-Bertani broth, 'African' strains grow better than 'European' strains at a stressful high temperature (43.25 degrees C). The results suggest that adaptation to the hotter and more stressful SFS is continuously ongoing. The patterns of heat adaptation override the phylogenetic history of individual lineages. A positive correlation of growth rates at 43.25 degrees C and 20 degrees C, more markedly among 'African' strains, reflects probably the broader temperature range on the SFS. Summarizing, the hot temperature stress on the 'African' slope is a major environmental force driving the twin evolutionary processes of adaptation and speciation of B. simplex at 'Evolution Canyon'. Finally, we discuss the data in light of current controversies on species concepts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Bacillus / genetics*
  • Bacillus / growth & development*
  • Bacillus / isolation & purification
  • Bacillus / physiology
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Climate*
  • Ecosystem
  • Europe
  • Heat-Shock Response
  • Hot Temperature
  • Israel
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Temperature*