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Microbes buy low and sell high
Date:1/13/2014

y need that individuals can detect co-operators and respond by rewarding them with more resources, Werner said. This can work through automatic responses. Organisms without cognition, like microbes, are also capable of automatic economic responses.

Impressively complex behavior can emerge from those automatic responses. Toby Kiers, PhD, professor of evolutionary interactions at Vrijie Universiteit and the senior author on the paper, studies complex underground networks between plant roots and fungi associated with those roots, called mycorrhizal fungi. The plants supply the fungi with sugar in exchange for mineral nutrients such as phosphorus.

Kiers and her colleagues found that the fungi compare the resources on offer by different plants, and adjust their resource allocations accordingly.

Some fungi even hoard resources until they get a better deal. We now see that such playing of the market happens in microbes. Microbial traders can be ruthless, even using chemicals to actively elbow competitors out of the marketplace, Kiers said.

The scientists expect that studying microbial exchange systems as miniature markets will give them insight into the many collaborative behaviors of microbes, helping to generate new hypotheses and approaches in the field of social microbiology.

And by comparing microbial markets and animal markets they will then be able to determine which, if any, market features are specific to cognitive agents, the scientists write.

So much for the egos of Wall Street traders.


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Contact: Diana Lutz
dlutz@wustl.edu
314-935-5272
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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