The last of our longest-running scientific experiments may have only been on the go since 1988, but that’s many millennia to some bacteria. And that’s the point.

How better to study the progress of evolution than using bacteria which reproduce so fast they speed through seven generations in a single day. That’s 50,000 generations in 23 years, compared to Homo Sapiens who are only on our 7,500th generation.

Back in 1988, evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski took 12 identical flasks, full of identical E. coli bacteria, and hunkered down for the not so long haul to see if they’d all evolve in the same way. For the first decade they did. Lenski’s team noted that all 12 populations started to exhibit faster growth rates and increased cell size, for example. Then something quite remarkable happened.

In 2003, Lenski observed that one of the flasks was cloudier than the others. On further investigation, he discovered that this particular population of E. coli had been gorging itself on the citrate that had always been present in the flasks. Why’s that remarkable? Because E. coli can’t normally grow aerobically on citrate; that’s one of its defining characteristics.

It’s good to see that science can still surprise us. Why not put it to the test by getting Jumpstart in to evaluate and prepare your next R&D tax credits claim.

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