Evolution is as complicated as 1-2-3

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A team of researchers at Michigan State University has documented the step-by-step process in which organisms evolve new functions.


The results, published in the current issue of Nature, are revealed through an in-depth, genomics-based analysis that decodes how E. coli bacteria figured out how to supplement a traditional diet of glucose with an extra course of citrate.

“It’s pretty nifty to see a new biological function evolve,” said Zachary Blount, postdoctoral researcher in MSU’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. “The first citrate-eaters were just barely able to grow on the citrate, but they got much better over time. We wanted to understand the changes that allowed the bacteria to evolve this new ability. We were lucky to have a system that allowed us to do so.”

Normal E. coli can’t digest citrate when oxygen is present. In fact, it’s a distinct hallmark of E. coli. They can’t eat citrate because E. coli don’t express the right protein to absorb citrate molecules.

To decipher the responsible mutations, Blount worked with Richard Lenski, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. Lenski’s long-term experiment, cultivating cultures of fast-growing E. coli, was launched in 1988 and has allowed him and his teammates to study more than more than 56,000 generations of bacterial evolution.

The experiment demonstrates natural selection at work. And because samples are frozen and available for later study, when something new emerges scientists can go back to earlier generations to look for the steps that happened along the way.

Written By: Michigan State University
continue to source article at news.msu.edu

2 COMMENTS

  1. “The results, published in the current issue of Nature, are revealed through an in-depth, genomics-based analysis that decodes how E. coli bacteria figured out how to supplement a traditional diet of glucose with an extra course of citrate.”

    There’s that shitty language again. Nothing has figured out anything. That’s like saying broken pieces of glass falling from a rooftop figure out how to land point down and not break; whereas the other broken pieces of glass which fall flat side down haven’t figured it out.

    Stop the creationist language, please. There is no purpose bound struggle to live and evolve.

    Sorry for being a douche but it really bugs me. I think it is a serious barrier to helping people understand how evolution actually works. 

    A giraffe’s neck is not long so it can reach the tops of trees, it can reach the tops of trees because its neck is long.

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