Comparative genomics is providing new opportunities to address the diversity and distributions of genes encoding the biosynthesis of specialized metabolites. An analysis of 119 genome sequences representing three closely related species of the marine actinomycete genus Salinispora reveals extraordinary biosynthetic diversity in the form of 176 distinct biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) of which only 24 have been linked to their products. Remarkably, more than half of the BGCs were observed in only one or two strains, suggesting they were acquired relatively recently in the evolutionary history of the genus. These acquired gene clusters are concentrated in specific genomic islands, which represent hot spots for BGC acquisition. While most BGCs are stable in terms of their chromosomal position, others migrated to different locations or were exchanged with unrelated gene clusters suggesting a plug and play type model of evolution that provides a mechanism to test the relative fitness effects of specialized metabolites. Transcriptome analyses were used to address the relationships between BGC abundance, chromosomal position and product discovery. The results indicate that recently acquired BGCs can be functional and that complex evolutionary processes shape the micro-diversity of specialized metabolism observed in closely related environmental bacteria.