Evolution takes on a whole new look and feel when it comes to the work of evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski. Most study evolution from fossils or by comparing different species. Lenski studies evolution by doing experiments with fast-reproducing organisms that allow him watch evolution in action.
“Evolution is like a game that combines luck and skill, and I thought that, perhaps, bacteria could teach me some interesting new games,” recalled Lenski, the Hannah Professor of Microbial Ecology at Michigan State University, and associated with the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.
In 1988, Lenski started an experiment with 12 populations of E. coli bacteria -- all starting with the same ancestral strain and all living in identical environments -- to see just how similarly or differently they would evolve. He wanted to keep the experiment going for at least a year and culture about 2,000 bacterial generations. Twenty-one years and almost 50,000 generations later, the experiment is still growing strong.
A 21-year Michigan State University experiment that distills the essence of evolution in laboratory flasks not only demonstrates natural selection at work, but could lead to biotechnology and medical research advances, researchers said. More >>
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