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They hunt, they kill, they cheat: Single-celled algae shed light on social lives of microbes
Date:1/18/2013

behavior and maximizing growth could potentially lead to new applications, the researchers speculate, albeit cautiously.

Driscoll explained the cheating trait might be an Achilles heel that could be exploited to curb algal blooms.

"We are ultimately interested in disrupting the competitive abilities of these bloom-forming populations. While this research is just scratching the surface, understanding how natural selection may work over the course of a bloom can provide a deeper understanding of the traits that are most important to the success of this species."

In addition, the cheaters' tendency to keep growing when their toxic peers no longer can is in some ways reminiscent of cancer cells.

According to Driscoll, one way to think about cancer is that cancerous cells have an immediate advantage over their non-cancerous, well-behaved neighbors. But this advantage, if unchecked, is very shortsighted because it will interfere with the basic functioning of the multicellular organism of which they are all a part.

"What we may be seeing in our algae is a far less extreme version of a similar story, because a short-term advantage to not producing toxins may interfere with the long-term competitive ability of the population."


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Contact: Daniel Stolte
stolte@email.arizona.edu
520-626-4402
University of Arizona
Source:Eurekalert  

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