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Multicellular life arises in a test tube

Evolution experiment turns singleton yeast into multicellular organisms

2:27pm, June 22, 2011

NORMAN, Okla. — Since humanity missed the big moment the first time around, biologists trying to understand the origins of complex life have coaxed single-celled microbes to evolve into multicellular forms capable of reproduction.

Common lab yeast normally live as single cells that bud off single-celled offspring. But challenging generations of yeast with conditions that make solo life tough led to spiky multicelled yeast forms within about two months, said Will Ratcliff of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. The experiment suggests going multicellular may happen more readily than previously thought, he told the Evolution 2011 conference June 18.

“It was certainly the buzz of the conference,” said Lee Dugatkin of the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

Evolutionary biologists rank the shift from one to many cells as one of the major transitions in the history of life. “To be able to examine it experimentally, in real time, in

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