Evolution of Multicellularity?–a New Lab Opportunity

Perhaps you follow Carl Zimmer and are familiar with an ongoing set of relatively simple experiments that explore the evolution of multicellularity using yeast.  The experiments are very straightforward and I had thought to myself that if I were still in the classroom I’d be trying this out.  William Ratcliffe, one of the principle researchers involved, was at NABT presenting a high school adaptation of the investigation as well as another on testing the predation hypothesis as a possible driver for multi-cellularity.   Even better he was distributing kits.  He want folks every where creating multicellular yeast.

You’ll find a number of relevant links below but for now the important one is:  http://snowflakeyeastlab.com/index.htm  Head on over there and request a kit and give this a try in your classroom.  Very, very cool.


A caveat, not all of the research community is on board just yet with this serving as a appropriate example for the transition to multi-cellularity.  Carl discusses this in his posts linked below (along with some responses from Dr. Ratcliffe.  You can also find additional critique here on Sandwalk, Larry Moran’s blog:  http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2013/11/is-bakers-yeast-good-model-for.html

Carl’s work:




The original paper:




One thought on “Evolution of Multicellularity?–a New Lab Opportunity”

  1. Done and done. I’m excited to try this. The lab also covers a tricky objective in NGSS for me: HS-LS2-8. Evaluate the evidence for the role of group behavior on individual and species’ chances to survive and reproduce.

    We can have this discussion within the context of this lab because group behavior needs to be considered as we watch the transition from single cells to multicellularity. Yay standards!

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