Royal Society Publishing

As it happens: current directions in experimental evolution

Thomas Bataillon , Paul Joyce , Paul Sniegowski


Recent decades have seen a significant rise in studies in which evolution is observed and analysed directly—as it happens—under replicated, controlled conditions. Such ‘experimental evolution’ approaches offer a degree of resolution of evolutionary processes and their underlying genetics that is difficult or even impossible to achieve in more traditional comparative and retrospective analyses. In principle, experimental populations can be monitored for phenotypic and genetic changes with any desired level of replication and measurement precision, facilitating progress on fundamental and previously unresolved questions in evolutionary biology. Here, we summarize 10 invited papers in which experimental evolution is making significant progress on a variety of fundamental questions. We conclude by briefly considering future directions in this very active field of research, emphasizing the importance of quantitative tests of theories and the emerging role of genome-wide re-sequencing.


  • One contribution to a Special Feature ‘Experimental evolution’ organized by Paul Sniegowski, Thomas Bataillon and Paul Joyce.

  • Received October 5, 2012.
  • Accepted October 5, 2012.
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