F Rosa Rubicondior: Creationism in Crisis - Scientists Create Evolutionary Arms Races In a Laboratory

Sunday 12 November 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Scientists Create Evolutionary Arms Races In a Laboratory

A typical E. coli phage virus.
Bacteria-Virus Arms Race Provides Rare Window into Rapid and Complex Evolution

Creationists hate evolutionary arms races because they can't be sensibly explained in terms of intelligent design by a single omnipotent, omniscient designer and for a creationist, any other sort of designer(s) would be a serious blasphemy that would see them swiftly ejected from their cult and cast into outer darkness, socially speaking.

And yet evolutionary arms races are an integral part of evolution, probably accounting for more biodiversity than sex selection and environmental change. Evolutionary arms races are the inevitable result of the fact that living things eat other living things, either as parasite or as predators, so there are two ways an organism in a parasite-host or predator-prey relationship can gain an advantage over others of its species: it can either be a more successful parasite/predator or it can be better at avoiding being parasitised or eaten. Either scenario will lead to more offspring carrying the genes for greater success so they will increase in the species gene pool and the whole population will evolve in that direction, creating selection pressure on the other member of the relationship to respond appropriately.

This is all the result of natural selection at works, with no plan and no sentience needed.

It should not be beyond the wit of an average 10-year-old to comprehend that unless childhood brainwashing and theophobic psychosis has prevented rational thinking.

of course, in a natural setting, this all happens relatively slowly in small increments over time, so the evolutionary changes might not be observable for several generations.

So, a group of researchers from UC San Diego, Georgia Institute of Technology and Maryland University, have found a way to speed up the process in laboratory flasks by using small quantities of bacteria and the bacterial parasites, bacteriophage viruses, usually simply called phage viruses.

The news release from UC San Diego explains the research and its significance:
Bacteria-Virus Arms Race Provides Rare Window into Rapid and Complex Evolution

Intricate ecological networks emerge from simple beginnings that feature repeating patterns of evolutionary development

As conceived by Charles Darwin in the 1800s, evolution is a slow, gradual process during which species adaptations are inherited incrementally over generations. However, today biologists can see how evolutionary changes unfold on much more accelerated timescales.

Rather than the evocative plants and animals of the Galapagos Islands that Darwin studied in forming his theory of evolution, Postdoctoral Scholar Joshua Borin and Associate Professor Justin Meyer of UC San Diego’s School of Biological Sciences are documenting rapid evolutionary processes in simple laboratory flasks.

Borin and Meyer set bacteria and viruses together in a closed laboratory flask — just two teaspoons large — to study coevolution in action. As viruses infect their bacterial neighbors, the bacteria evolve new defensive measures to repel the attacks. The viruses then counter these adaptations with their own evolutionary changes that work around the new defensive measures.

In only three weeks, this accelerated arms race between bacteria (Escherichia coli) and viruses (bacteriophage, or “phage”) results in several generations of evolutionary adaptations. The new findings, published in the journal Science, reveal the emergence of distinct evolutionary patterns.

In this study we show the power of evolution. We see how coevolution between bacteria and phage drive the emergence of a highly complicated ecological network. Evolution doesn’t have to be slow and gradual as Darwin thought.

Professor Justin R. Meyer, co-author Associate professor, Division of Biological Sciences
University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.
Meyer says the new study offers fresh perspectives on how intricate ecological networks develop across disparate ecosystems, whether they are food webs across the savanna, pollinator networks in the rainforest or microbes interacting in the ocean.

As bacteria and viruses adapted to each other’s presence over time, two prominent repeating patterns emerged. These included nestedness, a development in which narrow interactions between bacteria and virus specialists are “nested” within a broader range of generalist interactions; and modularity, in which interactions between species form modules within specialized groups, but not between groups.

We were amazed to discover that our evolution experiment in tiny flasks had recapitulated the complex patterns that had been previously observed between bacteria and viruses collected at regional and transoceanic scales.

Dr Joshua M. Borin, first author
Division of Biological Sciences
University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.

When our research team first quantified this multiscale pattern in environmental bacteria and phage interaction data, we thought the emergence of such complexity required long periods of evolution,.

Professor Joshua Weitz, co-author
Department of Biology
,University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA.
Meyer says capturing these evolutionary developments “in action” reinforces the power of evolution, which is often underestimated. Rapid pathogenic evolution continues to shape our world in new ways. Through COVID-19 and new mutations of SARS-CoV-2, viruses have demonstrated the potent capability for evolutionary adaptations that result in new strains when they encounter antibodies, vaccines and other roadblocks that keep them from effectively infecting and spreading. Such new concepts in microbial evolution are reframing the way patients are treated.

“We show that evolution can produce complex ecological networks quickly with very little external help,” said Meyer, who indicated that examples of such external evolutionary forces include isolation via geographical distance, environmental drivers and interactions with other species. “So we can use phage and bacteria as a model system to understand general evolutionary principles and help show how life on Earth has evolved into such diverse and complex ecosystems from simple beginnings.”
More technical detail appears in the team's published paper in Science
Editor’s summary

Real communities are characterized by complex interaction networks among species. The interaction is described as “nested” if there are specialist species interacting with subsets of species and “modular” if species interact within a group but not between different groups. A mixed pattern is known as a “multiscale” network. Borin et al. examined if and how a multiscale interaction network can develop through rapid evolution in a simple community with one type of bacteria and one type of phage. The authors were able to recapitulate the range of host interactions using receptor knock-out experiments. This means that phage-host interactions in a laboratory setting are sufficient to form complex ecological patterns and could be a valuable model system for informing phage therapy. —Caroline Ash


Interactions between species catalyze the evolution of multiscale ecological networks, including both nested and modular elements that regulate the function of diverse communities. One common assumption is that such complex pattern formation requires spatial isolation or long evolutionary timescales. We show that multiscale network structure can evolve rapidly under simple ecological conditions without spatial structure. In just 21 days of laboratory coevolution, Escherichia coli and bacteriophage Φ21 coevolve and diversify to form elaborate cross-infection networks. By measuring ~10,000 phage-bacteria infections and testing the genetic basis of interactions, we identify the mechanisms that create each component of the multiscale pattern. Our results demonstrate how multiscale networks evolve in parasite-host systems, illustrating Darwin’s idea that simple adaptive processes can generate entangled banks of ecological interactions.

Creationists have had another terrible day today what with articles about a transitional echidna being rediscovered after 60 years, and tree shrimps that only an idiot would design, so will probably want to ignore this paper with its complete absence of any doubt that what the scientists observed in their laboratory was evolution - they even cite Charles Darwin.

Not only have they shown that in the right conditions, evolution proceeds without the assistance of magic or supernatural entities and the results have a complete explanation in the Theory of Evolution, but that they can compress processes what in nature, with larger species, would take years or centuries, into a few days or weeks in a laboratory by allowing a simple parasite-host arms race between bacteria and phage viruses to proceed.

Thank you for sharing!

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