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Ecology. 2010 Feb;91(2):334-40.

Ecological drivers of the evolution of public-goods cooperation in bacteria.

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School of Biological Sciences, Biosciences Building, University of Liverpool, Crown Street, Liverpool L69 7ZB, United Kingdom.


The role of ecological processes in the evolution of social traits is increasingly recognized. Here, we explore, using a general theoretical model and experiments with bacteria, the joint effects of disturbance frequency and resource supply on the evolution of cooperative biofilm formation. Our results demonstrate that cooperation tends to peak at intermediate frequencies of disturbance but that the peak shifts toward progressively higher frequencies of disturbance as resource supply increases. This appears to arise due to increased growth rates at higher levels of resource supply, which allows cooperators to more rapidly exceed the density threshold above which cooperation is beneficial following catastrophic disturbance. These findings demonstrate for the first time the importance of interactions between ecological processes in the evolution of public-goods cooperation and suggest that cooperation can be favored by selection across a wide range of ecological conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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