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The Longest-Running Evolution Experiment

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 08, 2022

From Veritasium, a video about an experiment in evolution that's been running continuously for more than 33 years.1 The LTEE (the E. coli long-term evolution experiment) was started with 12 identical bacterial populations in 1988 and as of early 2020, they have reached 73,500 generations (the equivalent of 1.5 to 2 million years in human generational terms). When you can fast-forward evolution while also preserving past generations (the bacteria can be easily frozen and reanimated), you can discover some surprising things about it.

  1. Well, sort of. As you will learn in the video, the bacteria can be frozen without damaging them or ending the experiment, so the experiment was interrupted for 6 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But they're back at it now.