Who you gonna believe, me or your lying flagella

August 30th, 2007

BacteriaScience Daily has a short item, Social Parasites Of The Smaller Kind about a recent study on cooperation and cheating among Bacteria.

Cooperation is widespread in the natural world but so too are cheats — mutants that do not contribute to the collective good but simply reap the benefits of others’ cooperative efforts. In evolutionary terms, cheats should indeed prosper, so how cooperation persists despite the threat of cheat takeover is a fundamental question. Recently, biologists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford have found that in bacteria, cheats actually orchestrate their own downfall. In the study, reported in the September issue of The American Naturalist, the team explored the impact of cheats in populations of the notorious pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These bacteria cooperate to scavenge iron from their environment, but mutant cheats do not contribute their fair share of scavenger molecules and instead simply steal the iron supplies of others.

Game theory is truly the mathematics that matters for autonomous organisms.

(spotted on Freakonomics)