The evolutionary process has produced the amazing diversity and efficiency of life on Earth. Because evolution is typically slow, however, it is difficult to observe evolution in action and harness its power. With their rapid generations and the ability to freeze and later revive cells, many microbes provide excellent systems for studying the process of evolution. In my lab, we have maintained 12 populations of Escherichia coli in a simple environment for over 30 years and 70,000 generations. The primary aims of this experiment have been to characterize the tempo and mode of evolution, and to examine the repeatability and even predictability of phenotypic and genomic changes. We have quantified the dynamics of adaptation by natural selection, documented many cases of parallel evolution, observed changes in the underlying mutation rate, and seen the appearance of a new metabolic function. We have sequenced thousands of genomes to find the mutations in longitudinal samples from these populations. These genomic data provide insights into the dynamic coupling of phenotypic and genotypic evolution during periods of both optimization and innovation.
Richard Lenski is in the Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University. His research examines the genetic mechanisms and ecological processes responsible for evolution. He is a past President of the Society for the Study of Evolution, and he is a co-founder of the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, which brings together biologists, computer scientists, and engineers to illuminate and harness the power of evolution. Lenski is a member of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences, and he has been awarded fellowships from the MacArthur and Guggenheim Foundations. He has mentored 30 graduate students and postdoctoral associates who are on the faculties of universities around the United States and the world.
For details of his research and recent publication, please visit HERE
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