Bacteria Evolutionary Shift Seen in the Lab

Posted on June 9, 2008  Comments (0)

Bacteria make major evolutionary shift in the lab

A major evolutionary innovation has unfurled right in front of researchers’ eyes. It’s the first time evolution has been caught in the act of making such a rare and complex new trait. And because the species in question is a bacterium, scientists have been able to replay history to show how this evolutionary novelty grew from the accumulation of unpredictable, chance events.

sometime around the 31,500th generation, something dramatic happened in just one of the populations – the bacteria suddenly acquired the ability to metabolise citrate, a second nutrient in their culture medium that E. coli normally cannot use. Indeed, the inability to use citrate is one of the traits by which bacteriologists distinguish E. coli from other species.

The replays showed that even when he looked at trillions of cells, only the original population re-evolved Cit+ – and only when he started the replay from generation 20,000 or greater. Something, he concluded, must have happened around generation 20,000 that laid the groundwork for Cit+ to later evolve.

Lenski and his colleagues are now working to identify just what that earlier change was, and how it made the Cit+ mutation possible more than 10,000 generations later.

Related: People Have More Bacterial Cells than Human CellsUnderstanding the Evolution of Human Beings by CountryE. Coli Individuality

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