But new research from the University of Washington shows that in some structured communities, organisms increase their chances of survival if they evolve some level of restraint that allows competitors to survive as well, a sort of "survival of the weakest."
The phenomenon was observed in a community of three "nontransitive" competitors, meaning their relationship to each other is circular as in the children's game rock-paper-scissors in which scissors always defeats paper, paper always defeats rock and rock always defeats scissors.
In this case, the researchers created nontransitive communities of three strains of Escherichia coli bacteria, one that produces two antibiotics, one that is resistant to both antibiotics and one that is sensitive to both. The sensitive strain outgrows the resistant strain, which outgrows the producer, which kills the sensitive strain.
In communities in which the resistant strain curbed its pursuit of the producer, the resistant strain thrived. With no restraint, the resistant strain greatly reduced the population of the producer. But then the resistant strain was forced into greater competition with the strain sensitive to the antibiotics and the resistant strain's short-term gain meant its long-term demise.
"By becoming a better competitor in a well-mixed system, it could actually drive itself to extinction," said Joshua Nahum, a University of Washington graduate student in biology. "By growing faster, it actually can hurt its abundance."
Nahum is the lead author of a paper describing the work published online the week of June 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-authors are Brittany Harding, a UW biology undergraduate, and Benjamin Kerr, a UW associate professor of biology and the paper's corresponding author.
The researchers created 192 pools in which the bacteria could grow and interact. The bacteria could migrate among pools, and when migration occurred among neighboring pools the three strains formed multi-pool patches.
"The restrained patches, the ones that grew slower, seemed to last longer and the unrestrained patches, the ones that grew faster, burned themselves out faster," Nahum said.
To understand the process, imagine a community of three strains, Rock, Paper and Scissors, and then imagine the emergence of an unrestrained supercompetitor, Rock* (rock star), that is able to displace Scissors even faster than regular Rock can. But that also makes Rock* a better competitor against Rock, the researchers said. Eventually Rock* will be a victim of its own success, being preyed upon by Paper.
The irony, Kerr said, is that "by chasing your victim faster you actually help out the guy who's chasing you." Restraining exploitive behavior is beneficial to the patch in the long run, he said, and is a realistic embodiment of the proverb "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."
"In patches with faster growth, members of the unrestrained patch burn through their victims and then are left to face their victims' victims, their own enemies," he said.
The observed effect only applies to structured communities with limited migration, the researchers said. In an unstructured community with greater migration and mixing, a species that curbed its aggressiveness would not reduce its chances of being engulfed by its enemy.
The findings have potential implications for other ecological systems, including mating systems of certain lizards that could have analogs among some reptiles, fish, birds and insects.
The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
For more information, contact Kerr at 206-221-3996 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Nahum at email@example.com.
Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon
23.11.2017 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Migrating Cells: Folds in the cell membrane supply material for necessary blebs
23.11.2017 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
23.11.2017 | Information Technology
23.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.11.2017 | Life Sciences