Evolution caught in the act


But 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 citrate-using mutants increased in population size and diversity.

“It’s the most profound change we have seen during the experiment. This was clearly something quite different for them, and it’s outside what was normally considered the bounds of E. coli as a species, which makes it especially interesting,” says Lenski.

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2 Responses to Evolution caught in the act

  1. John says:

    You left out all the relevant bits: That meant the “citrate-plus” trait must have been something special – either it was a single mutation of an unusually improbable sort, a rare chromosome inversion, say, or else gaining the ability to use citrate required the accumulation of several mutations in sequence….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.”

    Inversions are just a rearrangement of already existing genetic material. It doesn’t add anything.

    As for the mutations, what usually happens is that there is an accompanying loss of function in the genome elsewhere. For example, penicillin resistance in bacteria produces a diminishment of function in the ribosomes. A net loss or no gain in genetic information.

    “In the meantime, the experiment stands as proof that evolution does not always lead to the best possible outcome.”

    Lenski’s experiment is also yet another poke in the eye for anti-evolutionists, notes Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. “The thing I like most is it says you can get these complex traits evolving by a combination of unlikely events,” he says. “That’s just what creationists say can’t happen.”

    Actually, creationists don’t say quite that.

    I’ve always found when evolutionists make claims about evolution occurring it’s always best to go to the original paper and see what did actually happen. When you do often you find highly selective control by the scientist and/or such an artificial environment that in the real world the new form just wouldn’t survive.

    In any case, it was E-coli before whatever happend, and it remained E-coli afterwards.

    But Dave, I suppose all this wouldn’t make any difference to you, would it?

  2. Dave Lankshear says:

    See, there you go again with all the missionary zeal of the hard-corps creationist.

    What’s your background John? Isn’t it philosophy and religion? Yet you’re writing as if you have a nice little degree in microbiology somewhere, tucked away in the background. Yet in reality you are just making your claims from “Creationist anti-science book number 666 on my library shelf”.

    I’ve been there, and done that, and been laughed at by Christian friends actually studying the science. In fact, one of my best mates had a raving creationist on his biology course that just embarrassed the other Christians studying the science… they would just sink into their seats with shame when this guy started RAVING on. He was in first year biology talking about “Darwin’s black box” and other concepts way over his head, and everything he said was systematically debunked over the coming terms. Yet the science lecturer with a VERY strong anti-Christian agenda cleverly and cunningly let this guy rave on for 30 minutes so that the Christians on the course could be thoroughly embarrassed as every single claim was debunked.

    I’m not going there again. Life’s too short.

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