Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

In the race of life, better an adaptable tortoise than a fit hare

Date:
March 23, 2011
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
When it comes to survival of the fittest, it's sometimes better to be an adaptable tortoise than a fitness-oriented hare, an evolutionary biologist says. Scientists show that more adaptable bacteria oriented toward long-term improvement prevailed over competitors that held a short-term advantage.

Redfoot tortoise (Geochelonia carbonaria) and a Dutch rabbit. When it comes to survival of the fittest, it's sometimes better to be an adaptable tortoise than a fitness-oriented hare, an evolutionary biologist says.
Credit: iStockphoto/Mark Tooker

When it comes to survival of the fittest, it's sometimes better to be an adaptable tortoise than a fitness-oriented hare, a Michigan State University evolutionary biologist says.

In the journal Science, Richard Lenski, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and colleagues show that more adaptable bacteria oriented toward long-term improvement prevailed over competitors that held a short-term advantage.

The discovery that the less-fit organisms overtook their in-shape counterparts surprised the researchers at first. But it turns out to work something like a game of chess.

"In games it makes sense to sacrifice some pieces for an eventual winning move," said Lenski, co-principal investigator of BEACON, MSU's National Science Foundation-funded Science and Technology Center. "The eventual winners were able to overcome their short-term disadvantage over the course of several evolutionary moves by producing more beneficial mutations."

Lenski is recognized as a leading evolutionary experimentalist, recording evolutionary change over 52,000 generations of bacteria grown during nearly 25 years. He and his team recently revived a frozen population of E. coli and compared the fitness and ultimate fates of four clones representing two genetically distinct lineages. One lineage eventually took over the population even though it had significantly lower competitive fitness than the other lineage that later went extinct.

By replaying evolution over and over with the clones, the researchers showed that the eventual winners likely prevailed because they had greater potential for further adaptation.

"In essence, the eventual loser lineage seems to have made a mutational move that gave it a short-term fitness advantage but closed off certain routes for later improvement," Lenski said. "And the dead-end strategy allowed the eventual winners to catch up and eventually surpass the eventual losers."

So, yes, sometimes the tortoise really does beat the hare.

Lenski's collaborators include co-author Robert Woods, an MSU graduate who worked in Lenski's laboratory and is now a physician scientist at the University of Michigan; Jeffrey Barrick, another Lenski lab researcher now on the faculty at the University of Texas; Tim Cooper from the University of Houston; MSU undergraduate student Mark Kauth; and University of Houston student Utpala Shrestha.

While Darwin's theory of natural selection has been confirmed by a great deal of other research, it has never before been observed directly for so many generations and in such detail as Lenski's long-term experiment has afforded. Lenski's research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and by MSU AgBioResearch.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. J. Woods, J. E. Barrick, T. F. Cooper, U. Shrestha, M. R. Kauth, R. E. Lenski. Second-Order Selection for Evolvability in a Large Escherichia coli Population. Science, 2011; 331 (6023): 1433 DOI: 10.1126/science.1198914

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "In the race of life, better an adaptable tortoise than a fit hare." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110322105304.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2011, March 23). In the race of life, better an adaptable tortoise than a fit hare. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110322105304.htm
Michigan State University. "In the race of life, better an adaptable tortoise than a fit hare." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110322105304.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins