In the context of unprecedented anthropogenic forcing in the living world, the speed and mechanisms of evolution remain the key to many questions ranging from pathogens adaptation to the dynamics of biodiversity. To what extent can evolutionary theory make predictions? What would be the time horizon of such predictions? These are the two questions I would like to address with this project. Experimental evolution with microbes is now a standard in studying evolution. It represents both unprecedented experimental progress in this field but also a real challenge to the theory. This project is organized into three parts. In the first, the aim is to develop mutation models to account for the diversity of possible mutation effects in evolutionary models. A major challenge is to be able to frame these models in terms of measurable quantities so that they can be tested and calibrated with appropriate data. The second aim is to build synthetic quantitative evolution models. Clearly, this development does not start from scratch. However, the development of current theory has to be made in two particular directions. First, it is necessary to incorporate the distribution of mutation fitness effects in evolutionary models. Second it is needed to incorporate explicit demography. In the third part, the aim is to develop empirical systems to confront the theory. One of the central issues is to develop biological models in which evolution can be measured on significant time scales. Microorganisms are ideal for this purpose and I will set up experiments with Escherichia coli to study niche evolution. However, it is also crucial to measure evolution in natura, so that I will also develop an alternative model system (Artemia spp.) with which field individuals several hundred generations apart can be compared and crossed. This unique model system will be particularly useful to test quantitative evolution models.
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