One of the most important experiments in evolution is going on right now in a laboratory in Michigan State University. A dozen flasks full of E. coli are sloshing around on a gently rocking table. The bacteria in those flasks has been evolving since 1988--for over 44,000 generations. And because they've been so carefully observed all that time, they've revealed some important lessons about how evolution works.
Richard Lenski started with a single bacteria and has raised from it the billions of cells he currently monitors.
He kept each of these 12 lines in its own flask. Each day he and his colleagues provided the bacteria with a little glucose, which was gobbled up by the afternoon. The next morning, the scientists took a small sample from each flask and put it in a new one with fresh glucose. And on and on and on, for 20 years and running.
They were able to capture the step-by-step evolution of the ability to metabolize citrate in one strain.
To gauge the flukiness of the citrate-eaters, Blount and Lenski replayed evolution. They grew new populations from 12 time points in the 33,000-generations of pre-citrate-eating bacteria. They let the bacteria evolve for thousands of generations, monitoring them for any signs of citrate-eating. They then transferred the bacteria to Petri dishes with nothing but citrate to eat. All told, they tested 40 trillion cells.
That sound you just heard was Mike Behe's head exploding.
(HT to twiggy at Tweb)