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We re-examined data from the classic Luria-Delbrück fluctuation experiment, which is often credited with establishing a Darwinian basis for evolution. We argue that, for the Lamarckian model of evolution to be ruled out by the experiment, the experiment must favor pure Darwinian evolution over both the Lamarckian model and a model that allows both Darwinian and Lamarckian mechanisms (as would happen for bacteria with CRISPR-Cas immunity). Analysis of the combined model was not performed in the original 1943 paper. The Luria-Delbrück paper also did not consider the possibility of neither model fitting the experiment. Using Bayesian model selection, we find that the Luria-Delbrück experiment, indeed, favors the Darwinian evolution over purely Lamarckian. However, our analysis does not rule out the combined model, and hence cannot rule out Lamarckian contributions to the evolutionary dynamics.

Original publication




Journal article


Physical biology

Publication Date





Department of Physics, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, United States of America. Department of Biology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, United States of America.


Escherichia coli, T-Phages, Bayes Theorem, Models, Genetic, Biological Evolution