Richard E. Lenski put some E. Coli in a jar and watched for 20 years. That’s 40,000 generations of bacteria.

He witnessed adaptation, natural selection, parallel evolution and more

In the late 1980s a few scientists began experimenting with microbes, hoping to observe natural selection in something closer to real time. Microbes can reproduce several times a day, and a billion of them can fit comfortably in a flask. Scientists can carefully control the conditions in which the microbes live, setting up different kinds of evolutionary pressures.

While working at the University of California, Irvine, Dr. Lenski decided to set up a straightforward experiment: he made life miserable for some bacteria. He created 12 identical lines of E. coli and then fed them a meager diet of glucose. The bacteria would run out of sugar by the afternoon, and the following morning Dr. Lenski would transfer a few of the survivors to a freshly supplied flask.

One striking lesson of the experiment is that evolution often follows the same path. “We’ve found a lot of parallel changes,” Dr. Lenski said.

And in other news, scientists are getting closer to creating life artificially.

Scientists could create the first new form of artificial life within months after a landmark breakthrough in which they turned one bacterium into another.

… scientists in the US took the whole genetic makeup – or genome – of a bacterial cell and transplanted it into a closely related species.

This then began to grow and multiply in the lab, turning into the first species in the process.

The team that carried out the first “species transplant” says it plans within months to do the same thing with a synthetic genome made from scratch in the laboratory.

If that experiment worked, it would mark the creation of a synthetic lifeform.

Worth reading.