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How bacteria can spontaneously adapt to environmental changes

An international team of scientists has for the first time observed an evolutionary strategy called 'bet hedging' under laboratory conditions. The term bet hedging describes the way in which organisms ensure the survival of their species in rapidly changing environments by generating offspring suited to different living conditions. It is possibly one of the earliest evolutionary adaptation techniques.

The researchers from Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand have published their observations of bet hedging in the bacterial species Pseudomonas fluorescens in the journal Nature.

In their experiments, the scientists introduced Pseudomonas strains into two different culture media. The variant that out-competed other variants in one medium was then placed in the other medium and vice versa, where the previously advantageous mutation would no longer be beneficial. As a consequence, new mutations and hence new variants evolved to compensate for this disadvantage.

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