Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology

Excerpt from Yeast Experiment Hints at a Faster Evolution From Single Cells

By Carl Zimmer

“The transition to multicellular life has long intrigued evolutionary biologists. The cells in our bodies have evolved to cooperate with exquisite precision. The human body has more than 200 types of cells, each dedicated to a different job. And a vast majority of the 100 trillion cells in our bodies sacrifice their own long-term legacy: Only eggs and sperm have a chance to survive our own death.

These demands for cooperation and sacrifice ought to make it hard for single-celled life to become multicellular. Yet animals, plants and other life forms have evolved bodies. “We know that multicellularity has evolved in different lineages at least 25 times in the history of life,” said William Ratcliff, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Ratcliff and his adviser, Michael Travisano, are experts in experimental evolution…

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