Evolution

Trench warfare keeps cheaters rare

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Science  03 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6243, pp. 43
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6243.43-a

Many Dictyostelium discoideum band together to form a stalk and fruiting body

PHOTO: ALEX WILD

When starving, thousands of normally solitary Dictyostelium discoideum amoebae band together to form a slug, which then differentiates into a stalk and fruiting body. The cells of the stalk die, allowing the cells at the top of the fruiting body to form spores and disperse. “Cheater” amoebae avoid forming the stalk and dying. To determine whether cheating provides amoebae with a selective advantage in nature, Ostrowski et al. studied ∼150 positions in amoebae genomes that influence cheating. The genomes maintained a balanced mixture of sequence variation at many of these positions. This indicates that cheaters remain rare because they are engaged in a form of evolutionary “trench warfare” with cooperator amoebae, which results in a stalemate between the two.

Curr. Biol. 10.1016/j.cub.2015.04.059 (2015).

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