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Biotech Science

Observing Evolution Over 40,000 Generations 461

Last year we discussed the work of Richard Lenski, who has been breeding E. coli for 21 years in a laboratory in Michigan. Then, the news was that Lenski's lab had caught direct, reproducible evidence of a genetic mutation with functional consequences for an organism. Now Lenski's lab has published in Nature a major study comparing adaptive and random genetic changes in 40,000 generations of E. coli (abstract here). "Early changes in the bacteria appeared to be largely adaptive, helping them be more successful in their environment. 'The genome was evolving along at a surprisingly constant rate, even as the adaptation of the bacteria slowed down,' [Lenski] noted. 'But then suddenly the mutation rate jumped way up, and a new dynamic relationship was established.' By generation 20,000, for example, the group found that some 45 genetic mutations had occurred, but 6,000 generations later a genetic mutation in the metabolism arose and sparked a rapid increase in the number of mutations so that by generation 40,000, some 653 mutations had occurred. Unlike the earlier changes, many of these later mutations appeared to be more random and neutral. The long-awaited findings show that calculating rates and types of evolutionary change may be even more difficult to do without a rich data set."
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Observing Evolution Over 40,000 Generations

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  • fuck that (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @05:05PM (#29786921)

    god did it

  • by adpe ( 805723 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @05:07PM (#29786941)
    653 mutations? 1305 missing gaps! Proof of god! Hallelulja!
  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @05:52PM (#29787331)

    god did it

    Haha I thought it was funny.

    It reminded me of Bill Hicks, the master of the use of comedy for the opening of minds.

    "[The Earth being] 12,000 years old. I asked the guy, c'mon man, dinosaur fossils, what's the deal? He goes, 'God put those here to test our faith'. I think God put you here to test MY faith, dude. I think I figured this out. That's what this guy said -- does that bother anyone here, the idea that GGOODD might be fuckin' with our heads? Anyone have trouble sleeping restfully with that thought in their head? God's runnin' around, burying fossils, 'huh huh huh, we'll see who believes in me now! Huh huh, I'm a prankster God, I am killing me ha ha ha". You die and go before St. Peter, he says 'Did you believe in dinosaurs?' Well yeah, there were fossils everywhere! 'What are you, an idiot, God was fuckin' with you! Giant flyin' lizards, you moron, that's one of God's EASIEST jokes!' It seemed so plausible, aaaahhhhhh!"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @06:05PM (#29787441)

    No, the difference is that 'Theist' ( with exception of course ) open their heart to all things, without prejudice, without conclusion. They feel God's influence( because they are humble enough to accept it ), and don't draw simple conclusions about their reality. Those that only believe in what they can 'prove' lack imagination and are the more close minded of the two.

  • by x2A ( 858210 ) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @10:58PM (#29789153)

    I prefer this bible reading [] :-)

  • No Nobel (Score:5, Funny)

    by Nova Express ( 100383 ) <lawrenceperson @ g> on Monday October 19, 2009 @12:23AM (#29789927) Homepage Journal

    Sorry, they're saving the next Nobel Prize in Medicine for Obama...

  • by poofmeisterp ( 650750 ) on Monday October 19, 2009 @12:23AM (#29789931) Journal

    Is a "your mom" joke appropriate in this particular case? :>

  • by dancingmad ( 128588 ) on Monday October 19, 2009 @08:26AM (#29792465)

    Mmmm, breaded mudskipper.

  • Re:hmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by Harald Paulsen ( 621759 ) on Monday October 19, 2009 @09:52AM (#29793389) Homepage

    To use an analogy, let's compare the evidence to a murder trial:

    Wait, can you put that in a filesystem developer analogy?

  • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by Voyager529 ( 1363959 ) <voyager529 AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday October 19, 2009 @10:14AM (#29793699)

    *kisses karma goodbye*

    My issue in general here (yes, I am a creationist...I'm a delusional moron, I know) is that while 40,000 generations of E. Coli did show some form of usable mutation, it doesn't account for many other inconsistencies with evolution as the be-all and end-all for how we got where we were. My biggest issue is that, to my knowledge, there has never been a documented observance of life coming from non-life.

    But the one more relevant to your point about this disproving the concept of irreducible complexity has problems of its own. Yes, there was indeed an evolution of the bacteria being able to process citrate. However, that's a smaller step than, say, if E. Coli bacteria started to be able to perform photosynthesis, or vice versa. There are other extremely wide gaps (asexual reproduction to sexual reproduction, live birth vs. egg laying, visual and audible processing, etc. etc.) that are still a challenge for gradual, incremental evolution to explain. The most immediately memorable example of this for me is the bombardier beetle. The system it's got in place to ward off predators relies on a series of chemicals and an expulsion system that incremental evolution can't account for. If any of those pieces evolved improperly, there would be no fossil record because the beetle would have a Fourth-of-July special internally before it ever got to reproduce.

    I'm not one of those crazed creationists who believe that everything we see today is exactly how God created it, but full-blown, evolved-over-billions-of-years-from-a-singularity-filled-with-energy evolution is still a challenge for me to accept. If that makes me $DEROGATORY_COMMENT, well, I already said goodbye to my karma points.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle