PerspectiveEvolution

Visualizing evolution as it happens

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science  09 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6304, pp. 1096-1097
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah5641

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Summary

One of the greatest symbols of the birth of evolutionary biology is Darwin's first sketch of an evolutionary tree, above which he wrote: “I think.” Not only are evolutionary trees central to how scientists conceptualize evolutionary processes, Darwin's words also capture a key aspect of evolutionary science: It is difficult to observe, forcing researchers to rely heavily on inference. In recent decades, studies of fast-growing microorganisms have allowed hypotheses about evolutionary processes to be tested experimentally (1). On page 1147 of this issue, Baym et al. (2) report a device for visualizing evolutionary branching as bacteria grow across a meter-scale agar slab. The results offer important insights into evolutionary dynamics in spatially extended systems.