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Proc Biol Sci. 2012 Jul 7;279(1738):2619-24. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.2514. Epub 2012 Feb 22.

High relatedness in a social amoeba: the role of kin-discriminatory segregation.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005, USA.


A major challenge for social theory is to explain the importance of kin discrimination for the evolution of altruism. One way to assess the importance of kin discrimination is to test its effects on increasing relatedness within groups. The social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum aggregates to form a fruiting body composed of dead stalk and live spores. Previous studies of a natural population showed that where D. discoideum occurs in the soil, multiple clones are often found in the same small soil samples. However, actual fruiting bodies usually contain only one clone. We here performed experiments to gauge the effect of kin-discriminatory segregation on increasing relatedness. We mixed co-occurring clones from this population using a relatedness level found in small soil samples. We found a lower proportion of uniclonal fruiting bodies and a lower level of relatedness compared with natural fruiting bodies. We found that the amount of relatedness increase attributable to kin-discriminatory segregation was small. These findings suggest a relatively minor influence of kin-discriminatory segregation on relatedness in D. discoideum. We discuss our results comparing with the results of previous studies, including those of wild clones and laboratory mutants. We ask why wild clones of D. discoideum exhibit a low degree of kin-discriminatory segregation, and what alternative factors might account for high relatedness in D. discoideum.

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