Model bacterial biofilm systems suggest that bacteria produce one type of biofilm which is then modified by environmental and physiological factors, though diversification of developing populations might result in the appearance of adaptive mutants producing altered structures with improved fitness advantage. Here we compare the air-liquid interface Viscous Mass (VM) biofilm produced by Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 and the Wrinkly Spreader (WS) and Complementary Biofilm-forming Strain (CBFS) biofilm-types produced by adaptive SBW25 mutants in order to better understand the link between these physical structures and the fitness advantage they provide in experimental microcosms. Wrinkly Spreader, CBFS and VM biofilms can be differentiated by strength, attachment levels and rheology, as well as by strain characteristics associated with biofilm–formation. Competitive fitness assays demonstrate that they provide similar advantage under static growth conditions but respond differently to increasing levels of physical disturbance. Pairwise competitions between biofilms suggest that these strains must be competing for at least two growth-limiting resources at the air-liquid interface, most probably O2 and nutrients, though VM and CBFS cells located lower down in the liquid column might provide an additional fitness advantage through the colonisation of a less competitive zone below the biofilm. Our comparison of different SBW25 biofilm-types illustrates more generally how varied biofilm characteristics and fitness advantage could become among adaptive mutants arising from an ancestral biofilm–forming strain and raises the question of how significant these changes might be in a range of medical, biotechnological and industrial contexts where diversification and change may be problematic.
Three biofilm types produced by a model pseudomonad are differentiated by structural characteristics and fitness advantage supplementary information