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Evolution Made Easy, Courtesy of E. Coli (blog)

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Evolution is one of those enigmatic subjects we simply do not understand fully. We know it is a biological change at the genetic level that changes the overall nature of an organism. We're also sure that it requires a significant number of generations. Unfortunately, that means it is difficult to observe and can easily be challenged by those with alternate viewpoints.

In the human context, evolution has been impossible to identify. We've only been able to decipher the genetic code for a decade yet it is estimated that millions of years might be needed to observe any significant event. This quandary has left many an evolutionary biologist frustrated.

There is another option to understand and elucidate evolution. By turning to our microscopic friends, such as the bacterium Escherichia coli, there is much that can be learned. Unlike humans, who need on average 20 years between generations, these small creatures only need about 20 minutes to foster offspring. This means that the bacterium can evolve some 500,000 times faster than us. For those studying evolution, this rapid rate offers the prime opportunity to explore some of the deeper mysteries and perhaps even offer mechanisms to best predict when evolution might happen to us.

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