We have examined the effects of wall populations on coexistence between strains of in the liquid phase of mixed (two-strain) chemostats. The wall populations of the two competing strains became established soon after the start of the cultures and, although the relative abundance of the strains in the liquid phase could change over time by several orders of magnitude, the composition of an established wall population did not change markedly. The bacterial strains examined could not displace an established wall population of a competing strain. The presence of a permanent wall population allowed a strain that was less fit in the liquid phase to coexist with a superior strain. The resulting coexistence did not require that the inferior strain attached to the vessel wall better than the superior strain. We believe that the coexistence developed because the inferior strain survived and reproduced on the vessel wall. The progeny from that wall population then provided replacements for the bacteria that the inferior strain lost through a selective disadvantage in the liquid phase of the culture. By replacing the chemostat vessel, hence eliminating the wall populations, we could distinguish between cases where the coexistence depended on the presence of a wall population and where it resulted from some alternative mechanism.


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