Goodbye, E. coli?

By Carl Zimmer | July 8, 2011 10:18 am

Lucas Brouwers, one of the new bloggers at Scientific American’s snazzy new blog network, takes a look at an intriguing paper (free pdf). The authors of the paper in examined many different strains of E. coli and come to a remarkable conclusion: they’ve been splitting apart so far that they may soon no longer be a single species. Check it out. (And, if you have a lot of time to spare, check out the rest of Scientific American’s fine line-up of bloggers.)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Link Love, Microcosm: The Book

Comments (2)

  1. Thanks for the link Carl, I really appreciate it.

    It’s a bit weird actually, because for this post, I actually went back to my copy of Microcosm, to brush up on my E. Coli knowledge.. So I thank you twice!

  2. Gary Allan

    As bacteria do not sexually reproduce and “species” is generally used to refer to sexual reproducers (that is 2 individuals are of the same species if they could, at least in principle, reproduce together or with another, in common), then bacteria, e Coli, are not speciated anyway. Since each bacteria goes its own way after it is created by fission, each bacterium no matter how like any other, is essentially a unique entity, its own “type”.

    [CZ:While scientists certainly debate the nature of species among bacteria, I know of no experts who says there is no such thing as bacterial species (or “operational taxonomic units” as some prefer to call them). The authors of the paper use a fairly common concept for bacterial species: they treat frequent recombination among bacteria as an analog for sexual reproduction. Members of a bacteria species therefore engage in frequent recombination among themselves, and rarely do with other species. The rate of recombination in E. coli was high in the past, but low more recently. This could be evidence of speciation.]


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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