A Journey to the Origins of Multicellular Life: Long-Term Experimental Evolution in the Lab

May 10, 2023

The world would look very different without multicellular organisms – take away the plants, animals, fungi, and seaweed, and Earth starts to look like a wetter, greener version of Mars. But precisely how multicellular organisms evolved from single-celled ancestors remains poorly understood. The transition happened hundreds of millions of years ago, and early multicellular species are largely lost to extinction.

To investigate how multicellular life evolves from scratch, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology decided to take evolution into their own hands. Led by William Ratcliff, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences and director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Quantitative Biosciences, a team of researchers has initiated the first long-term evolution experiment aimed at evolving new kinds of multicellular organisms from single-celled ancestors in the lab.

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Catherine Barzler, Senior Research Writer/Editor