Humans may learn cooperation in kindergarten, but what about bacteria, whose behavior is preprogrammed by their DNA?
Some legume plants, which rely on beneficial soil bacteria called rhizobia that infect their roots and provide nitrogen, seem to promote cooperation by exacting a toll on those bacterial strains that dont hold up their end of the symbiotic bargain, according to a team of researchers at the University of California, Davis.
"In the case of soybeans, it appears that the plant applies sanctions against rhizobia that dont provide nitrogen. The plant does this by decreasing the oxygen supply to the rhizobia," said R. Ford Denison, a crop ecologist in the UC Davis Department of Agronomy and Range Science. "In this way, the host plant can control the environment of the symbiotic bacteria to favor the evolution of cooperation by ensuring that bacterial cheaters reproduce less."
Pat Bailey | EurekAlert!
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