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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oh, man. Dembski is gonna love this one...

Exciting news about evolution: turns out, some things are easier to evolve than you might think!

When we think of life on Earth, most of us think of multicellular organisms, like large mammals or massive trees. But we're only aware of three groups of complex, multicellular organisms, which suggested it might be a major hurdle. Now, a new study describes how researchers evolved a multicellular form of yeast (the same species that contributes to bread and beer), and were able to see specialized cell behaviors and reproduction in as little as 60 days.

You'll have to read the article for the description of the method, which is quite clever, but the outcome is amazing:

But the clusters didn't simply keep growing indefinitely. Instead, the yeast quickly evolved a form of reproduction by splitting off what the authors call "propagules," or smaller clusters that break off and go on to develop on their own.

With more generations, this form of reproduction began to include specialized cell behavior. A small percentage of cells in the cluster would start committing suicide through a process called apoptosis. This death would allow the propagule to split off cleanly at the site of the dead cell, improving the efficiency of reproduction. Normally, there's no evolutionary advantage to a cell ending up dead but, since the cells in the propagule are genetically identical, this behavior can be selected for.

Just amazing stuff.

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