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Biol Lett. 2012 Jun 23;8(3):419-22. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.1141. Epub 2012 Jan 18.

Cooperation among germinating spores facilitates the growth of the fungus, Neurospora crassa.

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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Fusions between individuals are a common feature of organisms with modular, indeterminate life forms, including plants, marine invertebrates and fungi. The consequences of fusion for an individual fungus are poorly understood. We used wild-type and fusion mutant strains of the genetic model Neurospora crassa to chronicle the fitness in two different laboratory habitats, and in each experiment started colonies from multiple different densities of asexual spores. On round Petri dishes, fusion enabled wild-type colonies to grow larger than mutant (soft) colonies; but in linear 'race tubes', the soft mutant always grew more quickly than the wild-type. Starting a colony with more spores always provided an advantage to a wild-type colony, but was more often neutral or a cost to the soft mutant. The ability to fuse does not provide a consistent advantage to wild-type colonies; net benefits are shaped by both habitat and initial spore densities.

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