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Looking for Darwin's footprints in the microbial world

  • Author(s): Shapiro, B. Jesse
  • et al.
Abstract

As we observe the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birthday, microbiologists interested in the application of Darwin's ideas to the microscopic world have a lot to celebrate: an emerging picture of the (mostly microbial) Tree of Life at ever-increasing resolution, an understanding of horizontal gene transfer as a driving force in the evolution of microbes, and thousands of complete genome sequences to help formulate and refine our theories. At the same time, quantitative models of the microevolutionary processes shaping microbial populations remain just out of reach, a point that is perhaps most dramatically illustrated by the lack of consensus on how (or even whether) to define bacterial species. We summarize progress and prospects in bacterial population genetics, with an emphasis on detecting the footprint of positive Darwinian selection in microbial genomes.

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