Dynamics of adaptation and diversification: A 10,000-generation experiment with bacterial populations

Richard E. Lenski, Michael Travisano

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703 Scopus citations


We followed evolutionary change in 12 populations of Escherichia coli propagated for 10,000 generations in identical environments. Both morphology (cell size) and fitness (measured in competition with the ancestor) evolved rapidly for the first 2000 generations or so after the populations were introduced into the experimental environment, but both were nearly static for the last 5000 generations. Although evolving in identical environments, the replicate populations diverged significantly from one another in both morphology and mean fitness. The divergence in mean fitness was sustained and implies that the populations have approached different fitness peaks of unequal height in the adaptive landscape. Although the experimental time scale and environment were microevolutionary in scope, our experiments were designed to address questions concerning the origin as well as the fate of genetic and phenotypic novelties, the repeatability of adaptation, the diversification of lineages, and thus the causes and consequences of the uniqueness of evolutionary history. In fact, we observed several hallmarks of macroevolutionary dynamics, including periods of rapid evolution and stasis, altered functional relationships between traits, and concordance of anagenetic and cladogenetic trends. Our results support a Wrightian interpretation, in which chance events (mutation and drift) play an important role in adaptive evolution, as do the complex genetic interactions that underlie the structure of organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6808-6814
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Jul 19 1994


  • Escherichia coli
  • cell size
  • experimental evolution
  • macroevolution
  • natural selection


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