The arms race between a virus and the bacteria it attacks has helped scientists better understand one of the mysteries of evolution: How new traits evolve.
In a series of experiments, the bacteria-infecting viruses repeatedly acquired the ability to attack their host bacteria through a different "doorway," or receptor on the bacteria's cellular membrane, explained Justin Meyer, the lead researcher and a graduate student at Michigan State University.
Their results offer insight into a difficult question about evolution: Where do new traits come from?
According to evolutionary theory, natural selection can favor certain members of a population because of traits they possess, such as camouflage or an ability to get at food others can't reach. These favored organisms are more likely to reproduce, passing on the genes for their helpful traits to future generations.
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