What Was I Thinking?

The LTEE has run for over 10,000 days and almost 67,000 generations. It’s time to shut it down, as of today.

It’s been a hell of a lot of work, and we have almost nothing to show for it. As some astute commentators have noted around the web, the creatures in the flasks are still just bacteria—creatures, just as they were created.

If you read the first LTEE paper*, you’ll see we predicted the bacteria should become yeast by about 5,000 generations, nematodes at 15,000 generations or so, and fruit flies by 30,000 generations, maybe 35,000 at the outside.

After that, we’d have to stop the experiment anyhow, because we wouldn’t be able to freeze and bring them back alive any longer.

Plus, we’d have to get IRB approval for human experimentation if we ran it much past 50,000 generations.

Well, we’ve given the LTEE all this time, and still … they ’re just bacteria. I guess we’ve proven that Charles Darwin was wrong after all.

As an astute reviewer pointed out when we submitted that first paper, “I feel like a professor giving a poor grade to a good student.”  I should’ve listened and quit way back then. It would’ve saved everyone a lot of time and effort.

Now it’s going to be a hell of a lot of work next week emptying the freezers and autoclaving all those samples.

* Lenski, R. E., M. R. Rose, S. C. Simpson, and S. C. Tadler. 1991. Long-term experimental evolution in Escherichia coli. I. Adaptation and divergence during 2,000 generations. American Naturalist 138: 1315-1341.

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12 Comments

Filed under Humor, Uncategorized

12 responses to “What Was I Thinking?

  1. Good thing I’m in the building today. Would you like me to unplug the freezers as well?

  2. Arjan de Visser

    I never trusted that experiment! 😉

  3. It’s been a hell of a lot of work, and we have almost nothing to show for it. As some astute commentators have noted around the web, the creatures in the flasks are still just bacteria—creatures, just as they were created.

    Is this a joke? What would you expect? Sure they will be bacteria. You can never simulate the conditions of mother earth. It does not mean that Darwin was wrong…

  4. There’s a special place in heaven waiting for you… 😉

  5. russellhaynes

    I only read the first couple of lines and, somewhat in shock made a mental note to write later with support and encouragement. Re-read it again today and chuckled. Relieved to know the mission continues. Approximately when do you expect to get the yeast and the fruit flies?

  6. I just got an alert that bacteria rapidly accelerated their evolution after 66,000 generation, developed vestiges of cognition and showed signs of synchronised activity. 1000 generations later they were able to move out of flasks. It appears they took over the lab and the post was done not by Dr. Lenski but by the newly evolved superorganism. The whereabouts of Dr. Lenski and his lab team is unknown.