[Funded by the Origins Center]
Evolutionary biology can play an important role in solving some of the major challenges mankind faces today, such as: the development of bacterial resistance, resistance to pesticides, outbreaks of new diseases, and the adaptation of species to urbanisation and climate change. It can also help to promote biodiversity.
Researchers are therefore working on predicting the evolution of multicellular life through experimental evolution with small worms – nematodes – at multiple universities. The nematodes are presented with an environmental change they must cope with. Researchers aim to predict the possible evolutionary paths the nematodes can take in the experiment. Subsequently, the evolution experiments are run multiple times to observe whether the nematodes take the same evolutionary trajectories under the same conditions.
This project brings together theoretical and experimental scientists. Researchers working on digital and robotic evolution are also involved. Together they explore ways to predict evolution from the very beginning.
The project is a joint effort of a large number of research groups in the Netherlands and Belgium. The evolution experiment is carried out within the research groups of Astrid Groot (University of Amsterdam), Jacintha Ellers (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Marcel Visser and Steven Declerck (NIOO-KNAW), Maurijn van der Zee (Leiden University), Rampal Etienne and Marjon de Vos (University of Groningen), Jan Kammenga (Wageningen University & Research) and Dries Bonte (Ghent University). Principal investigators are Karen Bisschop and Thomas Blankers (previously Meike Wortel and Ken Kraaijeveld) and project technician is Janine Mariën.