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Chance in Evolution$
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Grant Ramsey and Charles H. Pence

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226401744

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226401911.001.0001

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History’s Windings in a Flask: Microbial Experiments into Evolutionary Contingency

History’s Windings in a Flask: Microbial Experiments into Evolutionary Contingency

Chapter:
(p.244) Chapter 10 History’s Windings in a Flask: Microbial Experiments into Evolutionary Contingency
Source:
Chance in Evolution
Author(s):

Zachary D. Blount

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226401911.003.0011

Evolution is an inherently historical phenomenon that involves both deterministic and stochastic processes that play out in the context of historically continuous lineages existing in a world subject to sometimes sudden, capricious change. Stephen Jay Gould argued that these characteristics imparts a historicity to evolution that makes evolutionary outcomes profoundly sensitive to the through which they arise. Famously, Gould proposed that this historical contingency means that, were one to replay the “tape of life”, a very different biological world would result. This is, of course, a difficult thought experiment to instantiate on the global level Gould envisioned. However, replay experiments are possible on the small scale using laboratory populations of microbes. In recent decades, many researchers have used evolution experiments with microorganisms to empirically examine the role of historical contingency in evolution. These experiments have made substantial contributions to our understanding of the role of contingency in evolution, even if it is too early to make any final conclusions. Just as importantly, they have aided in better understanding exactly what historical contingency is. In this chapter I survey the designs, findings, and implications of microbial evolution experiments into evolutionary contingency.

Keywords:   historical contingency, evolution, experimental evolution, long-term evolution experiments, path dependence, evolutionary repeatability, microbiology, E. coli, LTEE

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