An international team of evolutionary biologists led by the University of Oxford has used 380 populations of the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa to show that the duplication of genes may allow organisms to develop new traits. The team observed evolution happening in real-time by allowing the bacteria to develop new metabolic traits such as the ability to degrade different sugar compounds.
After 30 days of the experiment, they discovered that mutations mainly affected genes related to transcription and metabolism, and that novelty tended to evolve through the duplication of genes in the bacteria.
It is said that the duplication of genes allows bacteria to evolve new functions without compromising existing ones. In more complex organisms as plants and animals, such event occurs from spontaneous duplication of existing genes.