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A Test of the Repeatability of Measurements of Relative Fitness in the Long-Term Evolution Experiment with Escherichia coli

Cite this dataset

Barrick, Jeffrey E.; Deatherage, Daniel E.; Lenski, Richard E. (2019). A Test of the Repeatability of Measurements of Relative Fitness in the Long-Term Evolution Experiment with Escherichia coli [Dataset]. Dryad.


Experimental studies of evolution using microbes have a long tradition, and these studies have increased greatly in number and scope in recent decades. Most such experiments have been short in duration, typically running for weeks or months. A venerable exception, the long-term evolution experiment (LTEE) with Escherichia coli has continued for 30 years and 70,000 bacterial generations. The LTEE has become one of the cornerstones of the field of experimental evolution, in general, and the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, in particular. Science laboratories and experiments usually have finite lifespans, but we hope that the LTEE can continue far into the future. There are practical issues associated with maintaining such a long-term experiment. One issue, which we address here, is whether key measurements made at one time and place are reproducible, within reasonable limits, at other times and places. This issue comes to the forefront when one considers moving an experiment like the LTEE from one lab to another. To that end, the Barrick lab at the University of Texas at Austin, measured the fitness values of samples from the 12 LTEE populations at 2,000, 10,000, and 50,000 generations and compared the new data to data previously obtained at Michigan State University. On balance, the datasets agree very well. More generally, this finding shows the value of simplicity in experimental design, such as using a chemically defined growth medium and appropriately storing samples from microbiological experiments. Even so, one must be vigilant in checking assumptions and procedures given the potential for uncontrolled factors (e.g., water quality) to affect outcomes. This vigilance is perhaps especially important for a trait like fitness, which integrates all aspects of organismal performance and may therefore be sensitive to any number of subtle environmental influences.

Usage notes

This data file contains colony counts and relative fitness values to compare the reproducibility of new competition assays conducted at The University of Texas at Austin (UTA) with competition assays previously conducted at Michigan State University (MSU). The file also contains fitness values predicted by a power law model (PLM) for comparison.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1451740

National Science Foundation, Award: DBI-0939454