The researchers looked at slime moulds – microscopic single-cell organisms or amoebae that are forced to cooperate with one another when food is in short supply. Studying slime moulds at the cellular level provides the scientists with a unique insight into the genes that may also influence human behaviour.
The international team, including biologists from The University of Manchester, found that some amoebae have the ability to use cheating tactics to give them a better chance of survival. The research – published in the journal Nature – not only demonstrates that cheating is a natural phenomenon governed by our genes but that it may be widespread among social creatures.
“Slime mould amoebae feed off bacteria in the soil but when food becomes scarce they aggregate to form a fruiting body of some 100,000 cells,” explained Dr Chris Thompson, in Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences.
“Some cells become the spore, while about one-quarter form a stalk. The stalk cells die – they appear to sacrifice themselves to allow the spore cells to be dispersed on the wind to new feeding grounds.”
The team’s earlier work had focused on this remarkable level of cooperation in the hope of gaining an insight into why some cells demonstrated such altruistic behaviour. They concluded that the selfless acts were due to the unacceptable cost of non-cooperation – without a stalk, no amoebae would escape to new feeding grounds and all would perish.
But this latest research has uncovered a dark and complex subplot where some cells cheat the system to give themselves a better chance of survival. And this deadly game must constantly evolve as cells find new and better ways of cheating in what is effectively an evolutionary arms race.
“Social behaviour is an unresolved problem in biology – why would anyone be altruistic and give up something for someone else?” said Dr Thompson. “Our findings suggest that there is no single answer able to explain our observations but that a number of factors are at play.
“An analogy can be drawn from people in a sinking boat. If some people cheat by refusing to bail out water they benefit by conserving energy and will last longer as a result. But if not enough people bail water, or those that do become too exhausted, then everyone, including the cheaters, will drown.
“Interestingly, we noted that cheats only cheated in the presence of non-cheaters – when they could get away with not ‘bailing water’. When surrounded by other cheaters, they contribute to the group effort again, ‘aware’ that if no one does, all of them will die.”
Aeron Haworth | alfa
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences
21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences