Bacteria Torture Tests Demonstrate Evolution

Trapped in flasks by resolute scientists, bacteria do their best to survive. Dr. Richard E. Lenski has kept his E. coli bacteria captive since 1989. For more than 40,000 generations, these hardy organisms have known nothing but the world that Dr. Lenski has created for them.


(Dr. Richard Lenski)

Over time, the bacteria have evolved. They are twice as large as their common ancestor. They are also quicker to reproduce, dividing 70 percent faster.

The bacteria have also evolved solutions to the torture tests devised by Dr. Lenski. He created 12 identical lines of E. coli and then fed them short rations of glucose. Out of sugar by afternoon, most would die; Dr. Lenski transfered the few survivors to a fresh flask.

The bacteria evolved quickly, reproducing faster. Evolution tended to follow the same path in the 12 different sets of bacteria.

Dr. Lenski's work with captive bacteria has also provided us with more information about antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistant bacteria have become a serious problem around the world; the costs of new anti-biotics have skyrocketed in a sort of pharmaceutical arms race.

In a 1998 paper, Dr. Lenski demonstrated that once bacteria have adapted to antibiotics, the resistance gene remains in the population long after the antibiotics are withdrawn. Simply suspending the use of antibiotics becomes a less effective tool over time.

Other scientists have been working in this area as well. Bacteria adapted to 68 degree cold were forced to adapt to 104 degree heat. E. coli are forced to adapt to a new diet of glycerol (found in soap). As the organisms adapt, scientists learn more about how evolution works.

This strategy was suggested by several science fiction writers. In Theodore Sturgeon's famous short story Macrocosmic God, published in 1941, a scientist imprisoned tiny creatures he called Neoterics in an escape-proof habitat, and forced them to solve problems for him.

He couldn't speed up mankind's intellectual advancement enough to have it teach him the things his incredible mind yearned for. he couldn't speed himself up. So he created a new race - a race which would develop and evolve so fast that it would surpass the civilization of man; and from them he would learn.

They were completely in Kidder's power. Earth's normal atmosphere would poison them, as he took care to demonstrate to every fourth generation... They would make ... their little trial and error experiments hundreds of times faster than man...
(Read more about the Neoterics)

A similar strategy was proposed several years earlier by science fiction writer Edmund Hamilton in his 1937 short story Fessenden's Worlds. Eccentric scientist Arnold Fessenden altered the destinies of solar systems, often destroying entire civilizations.

Between the two disks, floating unsupported in the air, hung a cloud of tiny sparks of light. It looked like a swarm of minute golden bees, countless in number, and the swarm was lenticular in shape. Mounted near this weird thing were several instruments that looked a little like telescopes, though unfamiliar in design. They seemed to be trained on that thick little cloud of shining sparks...

"Fessenden's eyes had been following my stupefied change of expression. He said calmly, "Yes... it is true. That is a tiny, self-sustaining universe, with its own suns, nebulae and worlds.
(Read more about Hamilton's miniature universe)

Via Fast-Reproducing Microbes Provide a Window on Natural Selection and Bacterial evolution and the cost of antibiotic resistance.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/26/2007)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?' - Niven, Pournelle, Flynn, 1995.

Hackers Insert Malware Into DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!' -

Worms Eat Plastic Now
'Slowly and inexorably, the rate of dissolution increased...' - Davis/Pedlar, 1971.

Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.' - Peter Watts, 1999.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?'

iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams
Doctor shortage? No problem, we'll just use the autodoc.

Slaughterbot AI KIller Quadcopter Drones
'The real border was defended by... a swarm of quasi-independent aerostats.'

Do We Really Want Backflipping Robots?
Also includes wonderful blooper reel.

RNA-Based Biocomputing Device
Living things can sense and analyze complex signals in living cells.

Seasteading Floating Cities
'It was a remarkable island, circular, about half a kilometer in diameter.'

Tesla Semi 'Electrotruck' Unveiled
Elon Musk unveils yet another technological marvel.

Watch What People Are Seeing Via Brain Scanning
'had managed to see through the other man's eyes as the other man, all unaware, washed their Zis limousine sixteen hundred meters away...'

Integrated Circuits Printed Right Onto Fabric!
'...a shirt that displayed email on its sleeve.

Interstellar Asteroid Visits Our Solar System
'This asteroid had whirled in from the cold of the interplanetary space...'

PRIMA Bionic Vision Restoration
'The VISOR... was a medical device used in the Federation to aid patients who have suffered loss of eyesight...'

Audi Traffic Jam Pilot Knows If You're Sleeping
'Even here, riding a garbage truck to eternity, the machine watched him...'

UM Hall Thruster Breaks Records
Someday, we'll see an ion drive used to get to Mars.

Ionity Ultra-fast Charging Station Network
'Recharge the batteries... in almost every town and village...'

VAuth Voice Security Wearable From University of Michigan
'Siri, I gave you a voice command...' 'Yes, but do I know you?'

Ubiquiti FrontRow Camera Records Your Life
Why be choosy? Just upload your whole life to the Internet, and be done with it.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.