A New Evolutionary Theory: The Black Queen Hypothesis

Hearts Penalty Cards

Photo: Liko81 (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

Microorganisms can sometimes lose the ability to perform a function that appears to be necessary for their survival, and yet they still somehow manage to endure and multiply. How can this be? The authors of an opinion piece appearing in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, on March 27 explain their ideas about the matter. They say microbes that shed necessary functions are getting others to do the hard work for them, an adaptation that can encourage microorganisms to live in cooperative communities.

The Black Queen Hypothesis, as they call it, puts forth the idea that some of the needs of microorganisms can be met by other organisms, enabling microbes that rely on one another to live more efficiently by paring down the genes they have to carry around. In these cases, it would make evolutionary sense for a microbe to lose a burdensome gene for a function it doesn’t have to perform for itself. The authors, Richard Lenski and J. Jeffrey Morris of Michigan State University, and Erik Zinser of the University of Tennessee, named the hypothesis for the queen of spades in the game Hearts, in which the usual strategy is to avoid taking this card …

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  • Redacted


    Microorganisms can sometimes lose the ability to perform a function that appears to be necessary for their survival, and yet they still somehow manage to endure and multiply. How can this be?”

    Lets have a talk about complex organisms.

    Protip: If you are a Human, you are arranged of trillions of individual lifeforms. they are called cells. The sum of their whole is greater than they would be in parts.

    Not a single one could survive without all the others.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chu-Mei-Wang/100001653562261 Chu Mei Wang

      Did you just make this up? Why you lie bro? Cells in my body die everyday, the rest of’em seem to be holding up just fine. GG no re, newb.

      • Argiefag

        Tak a single cell, remove all the others, the single one would die.

        Well, that’s my intepretation of that last sentence: “Not a single one could survive without all the others.”

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    so God not only plays dice with the Universe
    but She also plays 7 card Follow the Queen with microorganisms?

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    Funny, i just learned yesterday that humans and other high primates cannot break down uric acid like almost every other animal out there. Guess we need all those other lifeforms to help us out in that sense. Oh wait never mind we got technology.

  • godozo

    Interesting. And believable.

    After all, we don’t make Vitamin C anymore, but instead depend on citrus fruits and other sources.

    (as for the Uric Acid issue, that would appear to be something that benefits youth at the expense of older people – the idea that if it helps you breed it don’t matter that it cripples you when older.)