Bacteria caught evolving a major new ability.

An evolutionary biologist has watched a colony of E. coli evolve a stunning new capability, right in the lab. He let a single bacterium reproduce for 44,000 generations in twelve populations. It was just one of the populations that, around the 31,500th generation, suddenly developed the ability to metabolize citrate, thus doubling its available food sources. As a result, these mutants thrived in comparison to the other eleven populations. Cooler still, he saved samples from every 500th generation, so now he’s going back and replaying the process over and over again, to find out how they evolved it and how likely that it was to take place. Next time somebody tells you that “nobody’s ever observed evolution,” tell ’em to stick this in their pipe and smoke it. (Via /.)

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

2 replies on “Bacteria caught evolving a major new ability.”

  1. I’ve been referring to it as the “law of evolution” as of late, because a law is an “observation with no explanation attached”. “Evolution by natural selection” would be the actual theory.

    I might get some resistance to that, though. :-P

  2. That doesn’t really make sense. Laws are generally universal regularities: evolution really isn’t that class of thing. It would make more sense to speak of the fact of evolution on earth, or the concept of biological evolution as a pattern of change over time. And natural selection is actually only one (though the key) mechanism that’s important to the overall picture.

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