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In amoeba world, cheating doesn't pay

Cheaters may prosper in the short term, but over time they seem doomed to fail, at least in the microscopic world of amoebas where natural selection favors the noble.

But why? Shouldn't "survival of the fittest" give the sneaky cheaters an edge? Not necessarily, as it turns out amoebas that cooperate for the benefit of all – and even die for the cause – bring their own genetic weapons to the fight.

Researchers from Rice University and the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) are peeling back the layers of strategy that determine how colonies of social amoebas resist the efforts of cheaters to alter the balance of power.

In work appearing today in Nature, Rice evolutionary biologists Joan Strassmann and David Queller join forces with BCM geneticist Gad Shaulsky to determine how altruistic mutants help preserve cooperative behavior by single-celled amoebas.
 
 

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