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Nature. 2009 Oct 15;461(7266):980-2. doi: 10.1038/nature08472. Epub 2009 Sep 30.

Cheater-resistance is not futile.

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Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Cooperative social systems are susceptible to cheating by individuals that reap the benefits of cooperation without incurring the costs. There are various theoretical mechanisms for the repression of cheating and many have been tested experimentally. One possibility that has not been tested rigorously is the evolution of mutations that confer resistance to cheating. Here we show that the presence of a cheater in a population of randomly mutated social amoebae can select for cheater-resistance. Furthermore, we show that this cheater-resistance can be a noble strategy because the resister strain does not necessarily exploit other strains. Thus, the evolution of resisters may be instrumental in preserving cooperative behaviour in the face of cheating.

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