Population bottleneck has only marginal effect on fitness evolution and its repeatability in dioecious Caenorhabditis elegans

Karen Bisschop, Thomas Blankers*, Janine Mariën, Meike T. Wortel, Martijn Egas, Astrid T. Groot, Marcel E. Visser, Jacintha Ellers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


The predictability of evolution is expected to depend on the relative contribution of deterministic and stochastic processes. This ratio is modulated by effective population size. Smaller effective populations harbor less genetic diversity and stochastic processes are generally expected to play a larger role, leading to less repeatable evolutionary trajectories. Empirical insight into the relationship between effective population size and repeatability is limited and focused mostly on asexual organisms. Here, we tested whether fitness evolution was less repeatable after a population bottleneck in obligately outcrossing populations of Caenorhabditis elegans. Replicated populations founded by 500, 50, or five individuals (no/moderate/strong bottleneck) were exposed to a novel environment with a different bacterial prey. As a proxy for fitness, population size was measured after one week of growth before and after 15 weeks of evolution. Surprisingly, we found no significant differences among treatments in their fitness evolution. Even though the strong bottleneck reduced the relative contribution of selection to fitness variation, this did not translate to a significant reduction in the repeatability of fitness evolution. Thus, although a bottleneck reduced the contribution of deterministic processes, we conclude that the predictability of evolution may not universally depend on effective population size, especially in sexual organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1896-1904
Number of pages9
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • effective population size
  • experimental evolution
  • fitness evolution
  • repeatability


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