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Life In A Flask
Teacher Contributed

Life In A Flask

Topic

Evolution In A Flask

Student Exploration

Now This Is A Home!

Living in a glass flask may not seem terribly glamorous. I mean it's just a flask, not too interesting. But the world of bacteria is very different than ours, and if you're a bacteria, a flask can be an awesome place to live, especially if you have scientists to feed you every day. No muss, no fuss, just eat and multiply, that's the life. Hmmm, good for the bacteria but what about the scientist? Why take meticulous care of a bacteria? Why make sure a single culture continually exists for decades? What are the scientists getting out of it? Well, flasks make life simple for a bacteria, but they also make life easier for the scientists. Our natural world is full of change and variability and unseen factors. Part of any good experiment is controlling and isolating variables, the flask represents a controlled environment where the scientist rules. They can control the environment in the flask, and by using organisms like bacteria which multiply rapidly, they can conduct basic experiments that would otherwise be impractical. Here's Richard Lenski to tell you more about work in his lab and microevolution in action.

Extension Investigation

Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. How long has Richard Lenski's experiment in microevolution been running? What aspect of the experiment makes it the longest running evolutionary experiment outside of nature?
  2. What advantage experimentally is achieved by being able to set a generation of bacteria into direct competition with their ancestors? Why would this sort of information be difficult to achieve any other way?
  3. How could understanding generational changes in bacteria lead to better antibiotics?
  4. Do you think strains of E. coli developing to use citrate is convincing evidence for evolutionary change? Why or why not? Be as specific in your reasoning as you can be.
  5. How may understanding generational changes in bacteria lead to improved developments in bioengineering?
  6. What aspects of the work in Dr. Lenski's lab would you consider basic science? Explain you reasoning fully.

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