How to make a flagellum in a test-tube.
So looks like pili and flagella can appear without a designer’s action. No doubt the ID brigade will either argue that the change doesn’t represent an increase in information or that it represents front-loading by the Designer That Shall Not Be Named.
[Geobacter] sulfurreducens bacteria were cultured on a graphite electrode under a 400 mV applied bias. The goal was to force the bacteria to adapt to conditions inside the MFC [microbial fuel cell] with the hope that they would evolve greater functionality in the process. Several colonies were isolated after five months in the MFC environment and re-cultured under normal conditions. When placed in an MFC cell, the specially cultured bacteria grew much more rapidly—current saturated after 50 hours as opposed to 400 hours—and they provided twice the current density of normally cultured bacteria.
Analysis of the enhanced bacteria showed that there were two primary adaptions. First, pili, fine, thread-like structures that connect neighboring cells, dramatically increased in the new bacteria. These structures are thought to be responsible for electronic conduction in bacterial films. Also, unlike their precursors, the enhanced bacteria all had flagella that allowed both motility and enhanced attachment to anode surfaces. It is unclear which adaptation is primarily responsible for the enhanced performance.
From here with a hat-tip to RBH.
Reference: Biosensors and Bioelectronics DOI:10.1016/j.bios.2009.05.004
Image: G. sulfurreducens biofilm (source)