Static microcosms are a well-established system used to study the adaptive radiation of SBW25 and the adaptive biofilm-forming mutants known as the Wrinkly Spreaders (WS). We have developed this system to investigate selection within multi-species communities using a soil-wash inoculum dominated by biofilm-competent pseudomonads. Here we present community and isolate-level analyses of one serial-transfer experiment in which replicate populations were selected for over ten transfers and 60 days. Although no significant trends in improving community biofilm characteristics or total microcosm productivity were observed, a significant shift in biofilm-formation and microcosm growth by individual isolates recovered from the initial soil-wash inoculum and final transfers indicated that these communities were subject to selection for growth in these microcosms. Surprisingly, the fitness of the archetypal WS was poor when competing against community samples, and having compared the cell densities in the low-O2 region of liquid column below the biofilm, we suggest that part of the community’s fitness advantage comes from the ability to colonise this under-utilised niche as well as to compete at the A-L interface. Samples from the community biofilms and the low-O2 region were able to re-colonize both niches and many final transfer isolates grew throughout the liquid column as well as forming A-L interface biofilms. This suggests that there is a trade-off between fast growth under highly competitive conditions at the A-L interface and slower growth with less competition in the low-O2 region, with some isolates taking a bet-hedging approach a colonizing both niches in our microcosm system.

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