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Genomics. 2014 Dec;104(6 Pt A):393-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ygeno.2014.10.004. Epub 2014 Oct 12.

Experimental microbial evolution: history and conceptual underpinnings.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA. Electronic address:
Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.


We chronicle and dissect the history of the field of Experimental Microbial Evolution, beginning with work by Monod. Early research was largely carried out by microbiologists and biochemists, who used experimental evolutionary change as a tool to understand structure-function relationships. These studies attracted the interest of evolutionary biologists who recognized the power of the approach to address issues such as the tempo of adaptive change, the costs and benefits of sex, parallelism, and the role which contingency plays in the evolutionary process. In the 1980s and 1990s, an ever-expanding body of microbial, physiological and biochemical data, together with new technologies for manipulating microbial genomes, allowed such questions to be addressed in ever-increasing detail. Since then, technological advances leading to low-cost, high-throughput DNA sequencing have made it possible for these and other fundamental questions in evolutionary biology to be addressed at the molecular level.


Bioinformatics; Chemostat; Continuous culture; DNA sequencing; Experimental microbial evolution; Fitness; Serial dilution

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