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Life

Bacteria evolve to get better at evolving in lab experiment

When bacteria were put in alternating environments, some became better at evolving to cope with the changes – evidence that “evolvability” can be gained through natural selection

By Michael Le Page

10 June 2024 , updated 11 June 2024

Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria viewed with an electron microscope

DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

There has been much theoretical debate about whether and how organisms can evolve to become better at evolving, but now a team of researchers has made it happen in a lab – and documented almost every single mutation along the way.

at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany and his colleagues put bacteria in an alternating environment where they had to evolve to survive. Many lineages of bacteria died out, but some became better and faster at evolving.

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