Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tight-knit Family: Even Microbes Favor Their Own Kin

Date:
August 24, 2006
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
New research in this week's issue of Nature finds that even the simplest of social creatures -- single-celled amoebae -- have the ability not only to recognize their own family members but also to selectively discriminate in favor of them. The study by Rice University biologists provides further proof of the surprisingly sophisticated social behavior of microbes, which have been shown to exhibit levels of cooperation more typically associated with animals.

New research published by Rice University biologists in this week's issue of Nature finds that even the simplest of social creatures - single-celled amoebae - have the ability not only to recognize their own family members but also to selectively discriminate in favor of them.

Related Articles


The study provides further proof of the surprisingly sophisticated social behavior of microbes, which have been shown to exhibit levels of cooperation more typically associated with animals.

"By recognizing kin, a social microbe can direct altruistic behavior towards its relatives," said postdoctoral researcher Natasha Mehdiabadi, the lead author of the study.

Recognizing one's own family is a common trait among animals - be they chimpanzees, ground squirrels or paper wasps - and because kin recognition can strongly influence cooperative behaviors it can also significantly impact the social evolution of species.

While scientists have repeatedly documented cases of kin recognition, the Rice study is among the first to document the more sophisticated trait of kin discrimination in a social microorganism.

The new study is based on an examination of single-celled Dictyostelium purpureum, a common soil microbe that feeds on bacteria. In the wild, when food runs short, D. purpureum aggregate together by the thousands, forming first into long narrow slugs and then into hair-like fruiting bodies. Resembling miniature mushrooms, these fruiting bodies consist of both a freestanding stalk and the spores that sit atop it. Ultimately, the spores are carried away, usually on the legs of passing creatures, to start the life cycle all over again. But in order to disperse the spores, some of the colony's individuals must altruistically sacrifice themselves in order to make the stalk.

Mehdiabadi and others in the lab of Rice evolutionary biologists Joan Strassmann and David Queller sought to find out whether D. purpureum discriminate by preferentially directing this altruism toward their relatives.

The team collected wild strains of D. purpureum from the Houston Arboretum and took them back to the lab where they were cultured in dishes. In each of 14 experiments, a pair of strains were placed in a dish in equal proportion, and one of the strains in each pair was labeled with a fluorescent dye.

Food was withheld, causing the microbes in each dish to form dozens of slugs and fruiting bodies. Upon observing their social development, the team found that individual fruiting bodies contained predominantly one strain or the other.

"Our experiments ruled out potential differences in developmental timing and showed that these organisms preferentially associate with their own kin," said Strassmann, the Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor in Natural Sciences, who also chairs Rice's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

It's unclear how D. purpureum distinguishes relatives from non-relatives, but Mehdiabadi said the process likely relies on a genetic mechanism.

Co-authors of the study include, Gad Shaulsky, associate professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine; Rice technicians Chandra Jack and Tiffany Talley Farnham; Rice graduate student Sara Kalla; and former Rice graduate student Thomas Platt, who's currently at Indiana University.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the W.M. Keck Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Tight-knit Family: Even Microbes Favor Their Own Kin." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 August 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060823184831.htm>.
Rice University. (2006, August 24). Tight-knit Family: Even Microbes Favor Their Own Kin. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060823184831.htm
Rice University. "Tight-knit Family: Even Microbes Favor Their Own Kin." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060823184831.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins