Darwinian “survival of the fittest” is being called into question by new research published in the scientific journal Nature. This research challenges the entire mainstream paradigm of evolution based on Darwin's theory.

It is commonly accepted that in any environment, there will be a best species or best traits of a species, and over time, they will dominate. Darwin’s theory also states that complex environments are needed to support diverse populations.

Using hundreds of generations of bacteria, microbiologists have been testing this principle. Professor Robert Beardmore, of the University of Exeter, explains, “It had been believed that the genome of only the fittest bacteria would be left, but that wasn’t their finding. The experiments generated lots of unexpected genetic diversity.”

Critics’ initial claims of there not being a sufficient time span in the experiments have been waved away as new research revealed the same results: unexpected biodiversity in non-complex surroundings.

Interestingly, the key to this biodiversity lies in how energy is used from food. Professor Laurence Hurst tells that when organisms are given abundant food, they use it inefficiently. Dr Ivana Gudelj furthers this by stating, “The fit use food well but they aren’t resilient to mutations, whereas the less efficient, unfit consumers are maintained by their resilience to mutation. If there’s a low mutation rate, survival of the fittest rules, but if not, lots of diversity can be maintained.”

This research is groundbreaking in that it shows that biodiversity is possible in the simplest of environments.


Image, "Crystal DNA", by jpcaltrot on Flickr Courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing