Do Bacteria Age?

When a bacterial cell divides into two daughter cells and those two cells divide into four more daughters, then 8, then 16 and so on, the result, biologists have long assumed, is an eternally youthful population of bacteria. Bacteria, in other words, don’t age — at least not in the same way all other organisms do.

But a study conducted by evolutionary biologists at the University of California, San Diego questions that longstanding paradigm. In a paper published in the November 8 issue of the journal Current Biology, they conclude that not only do bacteria age, but that their ability to age allows bacteria to improve the evolutionary fitness of their population by diversifying their reproductive investment between older and more youthful daughters.

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