Experimental evolution

Trends Ecol Evol. 2012 Oct;27(10):547-60. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.06.001. Epub 2012 Jul 21.


Experimental evolution is the study of evolutionary processes occurring in experimental populations in response to conditions imposed by the experimenter. This research approach is increasingly used to study adaptation, estimate evolutionary parameters, and test diverse evolutionary hypotheses. Long applied in vaccine development, experimental evolution also finds new applications in biotechnology. Recent technological developments provide a path towards detailed understanding of the genomic and molecular basis of experimental evolutionary change, while new findings raise new questions that can be addressed with this approach. However, experimental evolution has important limitations, and the interpretation of results is subject to caveats resulting from small population sizes, limited timescales, the simplified nature of laboratory environments, and, in some cases, the potential to misinterpret the selective forces and other processes at work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*