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Tight-knit family: Even microbes favor their own kin

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.


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Contact: Jade Boyd
jadeboyd@rice.edu
713-348-6778
Rice University
23-Aug-2006


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