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Research Highlight – Survivor: test tube edition
When it comes to evolution survival of the fittest can be a lot like a reality TV show

In the game of life, it’s survival of the fittest as organisms compete to evolve. Unfortunately, with evolution often taking place over years instead of days, the competition for survival is not as exciting to watch as it may sound. Or is it?

In the game of life, it’s survival of the fittest as organisms compete to evolve. Unfortunately, with evolution often taking place over years instead of days, the competition for survival is not as exciting to watch as it may sound. Or is it? 

To kick up the idea of the evolutionary competition, Prof. Yitzhak Pilpel, staff scientists Dr. Orna Dahan and research student Sivan Kaminski-Strauss of the Molecular Genetics Department challenged 30 other labs to a competition of “test-tube evolution”. The competition saw around 30 labs starting with a culture of either E. coli bacteria or baker’s yeast and training it to adapt to colder environments through evolution. 

The labs each spent three months developing strains from their starting culture before sending them back to compete in the evolutionary tournament. The strains were split into two categories, bacteria and yeast, and were subjected to cold conditions, the ones that survived the cold temperature won. 

After the winners in each category were determined, Pilpel and his team changed the rules. The competition began again, but this time instead of cold the organisms were subjected to saline. The results of the new round led to some interesting conclusions about evolutionary pressures, and the difference between evolution based on sexual versus asexual reproduction. 

The competition has taught researchers about different methods for evolution and new insights and inspiration for the study of it that could be used to guide future biotechnology research.  

Read the full article on the competition “Winners of the Evolution World Championships”.

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