The hand game of "rock-paper-scissors" is perpetual one-upmanship: rock crushes scissors, scissors cut paper and paper covers rock. In the July 11 issue of the journal Nature, researchers at Stanford and Yale report that certain bacteria can play their own version of that game. Populations chase each other around the petri dish in a set of incessant skirmishes that lack a clear victor but conserve biodiversity of the overall ecosystem. But biodiversity breaks down in the uniform environment of a well-mixed flask - demonstrating that spatial separation may be necessary for different populations to coexist. "The scale at which organisms interact and disperse can have profound effects on the maintenance of biodiversity," says co-author Brendan Bohannan, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Stanford. "Organisms exist in neighborhoods in nature, and historically that's been overlooked by many ecologists. And the fact that they exist in neighborhoods has profound implications for the maintenance of biodiversity."
The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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