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Evolution Can Select for Evolvability, Penn Biologists Find

RATE THIS! +49
Posted in Science on 16th Nov, 2013 06:46 AM by AlexMuller

Evolution does not operate with a goal in mind; it does not have foresight. But organisms that have a greater capacity to evolve may fare better in rapidly changing environments. This raises the question: does evolution favor characteristics that increase a species’ ability to evolve?

 
For several years, biologists have attempted to provide evidence that natural selection has acted on evolvability. Now a new paper by University of Pennsylvania researchers offers, for the first time, clear evidence that the answer is yes.
 
The senior author on the study, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, is Dustin Brisson, an assistant professor in the School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology. His coauthors include Penn’s Christopher J. Graves, Vera I. D. Ros and Paul D. Sniegowski, and the University of Kentucky’s Brian Stevenson.
 
“It’s not controversial that populations evolve and that some traits are more apt to evolve than others,” Brisson said. “What we were asking is whether the ability of an organism to evolve is a trait that natural selection can pick.”
 
For species of viruses, pathogenic bacteria and parasites to survive over the long-term, they must possess an ability to rapidly adapt and evolve, enabling them to stay one step ahead of their hosts’ immune systems. But these pathogens don’t need to foresee what conditions lie ahead of them. They only must change into something that the immune system has never seen before.
 
“Pathogens face a very strong selection pressure from the host’s immune system,” Brisson said. “If they don’t adapt, they will die.”

Tags: evolutionbiologyenvironmentvirusbacteria

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Comments

Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-11-16
+2
The concept that organisms that can evolve quicker are better adapted to change is consistent with natural selection and is good that new evidence supports this Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-11-16
+2
Simple pathogens are very good example because we know that they are under selection pressure from our immune defence - they evolved to avoid it Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-11-16
+0
Good examples of advantages of fast evolution and fast change is microbes becoming resistant to antibiotics. This is now a huge problem
2 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-11-16
+0
Good point. Many diseases that were considered eradicated or reduced, such as tuberculosis, are coming back Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-11-16
+0
Adaptation to changing environment is a great advantage - it is changes so much with human activity and this could be the factor to consider
1 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-11-16
+0
Yes, this is something to consider and, importantly, to control as well Reply
Reply


 

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