In only 11 days, bacteria are thriving in antibiotic concentrations 1000 times greater than concentrations that killed their ancestors.
The 2-by-4-foot table was created and filmed for a Harvard Medical School graduate class and proved an effective educational tool. "When shown the video, evolutionary biologists immediately recognize concepts they’ve thought about in the abstract, while non-specialists immediately begin to ask really good questions,” said Tami Lieberman, who is a co-investigator on the project, in the Harvard press release.
The table also revealed a new insight in bacterial evolution. The first mutant strains to reach the highest concentration of antibacterial are not necessarily the strongest. The fittest, most reproductively successful strains might develop resistance to antibiotics later.
(The demonstration was also inspired by a Hollywood marketing ploy for the film Contagion, that spelled out the movie’s title with spreading bacteria.)