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Close family ties keep microbial cheaters in check, study finds
Date:12/16/2011

o ask how many times the amoeba could divide--theoretically--before cheating became a problem.

What if, they asked, "we let an initial single amoebae divide enough times so there would be as many of them as there are cells in a fruit fly, then transferred one amoeba and allowed it to divide until the daughter colony reached fruit fly size, and so on?

"What if we let the colonies grow to human size? To elephant size? To blue whale size? Would the cheaters bring down the whale-sized Dicty colony?"

The answer, it turned out, was no.

A whale-sized Dicty colony is not the same thing as a whale, but nonetheless the experiments suggest how organisms, over the course of evolution, have sidestepped the cheating trap and maintained the levels of cooperation multicellular bodies demand.

"A multicellular body like the human body is an incredibly cooperative thing," Queller says, "and sociobiologists have learned that really cooperative things are hard to evolve because of the potential for cheating.

"It's the single-cell bottleneck,"he says, "that generates the high relatedness among the cells that allows them to cooperate."


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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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