All organisms are faced with environmental uncertainty. Bet-hedging theory expects unpredictable selection to result in the evolution of traits that maximize the geometric-mean fitness even though such traits appeartobedet-rimental over the shorter term. Despite the centrality of fitness measures to evolutionary analysis, no direct test of the geometric-mean fitness principle exists. Here, we directly distinguish between predictions of competing fitness maximization principles by testing Cohen's 1966 classic bet-hedging model using the fungus Neurospora crassa. The simple prediction is that propagule dormancy will evolve in proportion to the frequency of 'bad' years, whereas the prediction of the alternative arithmetic-mean principle is the evolution of zero dormancy as long as the expectation of a bad year is less than 0.5. Ascospore dormancy fraction in N. crassa was allowed to evolve under five experimental selection regimes that differed in the frequency of unpredictable 'bad years'. Results were consistent with bet-hedging theory: final dormancy fraction in 12 genetic lineages across 88 independently evolving samples was proportional to the frequency of bad years, and evolved both upwards and downwards as predicted from a range of starting dormancy fractions. These findings suggest that selection results in adaptation to variable rather than to expected environments.

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Keywords Bet hedging, Dormancy, Geometric-mean fitness, Life-history evolution, Spore germination, Stochasticity
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Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Graham, J.K. (Jeffrey K.), Smith, M, & Simons, A.M. (Andrew M.). (2014). Experimental evolution of bet hedging under manipulated environmental uncertainty in Neurospora Crassa. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281(1787). doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.0706