Temperature is an important environmental factor affecting all organisms, and there is ample evidence from comparative physiology that species and even conspecific populations can adapt genetically to different temperature regimes. But the effect of these adaptations on fitness and the rapidity of their evolution is unknown, as is the extent to which they depend on pre-existing genetic variation rather than new mutations. We have begun a study of the evolutionary adaptation of Escherichia coli to different temperature regimes, taking advantage of the large population sizes and short generation times in experiments on this bacterial species. We report significant improvement in temperature-specific fitness of lines maintained at 42 degrees C for 200 generations (about one month). These changes in fitness are due to selection on de novo mutations and show that some biological systems can evolve rapidly in response to changes in environmental factors such as temperature.