I recently had a great time discussing the long-term evolution experiment and more with Molly Bentley in an interview for an episode of the podcast Big Picture Science that focused on the evolutionary origins of multicellular life. Are E. coli in the LTEE evolving into differentiated multicellular organisms like the Volvox shown here? Probably not, given there’s no obvious fitness advantage for doing so in their well-shaken flasks in which competition for simple chemical resources dominates. There are no predators to band together and defend against or complex nutrients that require cooperation and compartmentalization to break down.
Fortunately, you can also learn about the exciting ongoing MuLTEE (multicellular long-term evolution experiment with “snowflake” yeast) at Georgia Tech from Will Ratcliff in this episode. Here, an only slightly more complex environment (allowing cells to settle) has led to the evolution of nascent multicellular forms with interesting properties. You can also muse about the prospects for life (and multicellular life) in the universe with Joe Graves of North Carolina A&T who has used experimental evolution to examine bacterial resistance to metal nanoparticles.
Photo Credit: Frank Fox (www.mikro-foto.de)