Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cheating in nature: why rotting food could hold the key

01.09.2004


From salting and drying to pickling and irradiating, humans have devised many ingenious ways of preserving their food from spoilage by microbes. The question of what microbes gain from making food go off in the first place has attracted less attention, but research presented at this years British Ecological Society Annual Meeting will shed new light on the problem.



Speaking at the meeting, taking place at Lancaster University on 7-9 September 2004, Dr Dave Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University and Dr Thomas Sherratt of Carleton University in Canada will cast doubt over Professor Dan Janzen’s seductive 1977 theory that microbes make food go off in order to make it objectionable or unusable by the larger animals they are competing with for food.

Janzen illustrated his theory thus: imagine a child left alone for a short time in the kitchen with two strawberries, one fresh and one mouldy. If the youngster pops the fresh one into its mouth, then the microbe has won.


Wilkinson and Sherratt used mathematical models for the first time to test Janzen’s theory . According to Wilkinson: “In our current model it is difficult to see how spoiling behaviour could evolve as an adaptation to deter larger animals. Janzen’s idea, while intuitively attractive, may be unworkable. Our main result is that in the mathematical model we have developed so far, we have been unable to find realistic conditions under which cheats will not undermine the system.”

“If microbes are expending energy producing chemicals to deter birds and other animals from eating their food, then what is to stop them from cheating by not producing the chemical but just relying on protection from chemicals produced by other microbes?”

As well as challenging Janzen’s theory, Wilkinson and Sherratt’s work could help ecologists understand cheating in other areas of nature. “The problem of cheats destroying systems of mutually cooperating organisms is a major problem in evolutionary ecology. Janzen’s system has great merit because it is relatively simple and therefore open to mathematical study, so it may yet help identify the conditions under which cooperation is favoured over cheating,” Wilkinson says.

Wilkinson and Sherratt are currently building more complex models to see if this helps rescue Janzen’s theory.

Dr Wilkinson will present his full findings at 08:40 on Thursday 9 September 2004.

Becky Allen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Topologische Quantenchemie
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

nachricht Topological Quantum Chemistry
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>