Sun. Jan 26th, 2020

Bacteria contradict Darwin: the fittest does not survive – La Provincia

New microbial research at the University of Copenhagen suggests that the "survival of the most cooperative" exceeds the "survival of the fittest" for bacteria groups.

Bacteria make space with each other and sacrifice properties if it benefits the bacterial community as a whole.

The discovery is an important step towards understanding complex interactions of bacteria and developing new treatment models for a wide range of human diseases and new ecological technologies, According to the authors.

New microbial research in the Department of Biology reveals that bacteria would prefer to join against external threats, such as antibiotics, rather than fighting each other. The report has just been published in the scientific publication ISME Journal.

For years, researchers have studied how combinations of bacteria behave together in a confined area. After investigating thousands of combinations, it has become clear that bacteria cooperate to survive and that these results contradict what Darwin said in his theories of evolution.

"In the classic Darwinian mentality, competition is the name of the game. The most appropriate survive and outperform the least suitable. However, when it comes to microorganisms like bacteria, our findings reveal that the most cooperative survive", the microbiologist Soren Johannes Sorensen explains in a statement.

Social bacteria work shoulder to shoulder

By isolating the bacteria from a small corn husk (where they were forced to "fight" for space) the scientists were able to investigate the extent to which the bacteria compete or cooperate to survive. Bacterial strains were selected based on their ability to grow together.

The researchers measured the bacterial biofilm, a viscous protective layer that protects bacteria against external threats such as antibiotics or predators. When bacteria are healthy, produce more biofilm and become stronger and stronger.

Again and again, the researchers observed the same result: instead of competing to be stronger than others in biofilm production, space was allowed for the weakest, which allowed the weak to grow much better than they would have alone At the same time, researchers were able to see that the bacteria divide laborious tasks by closing unnecessary mechanisms and sharing them with their neighbors.

"It may well be that Henry Ford thought he had found something brilliant when he introduced the assembly line and the workers' specialization, but the bacteria have been taking advantage of this strategy for a billion years ", says Soren Johannes Sorensen, referring to the oldest known biofilm fossil bacteria.

"Our new study shows that bacteria are organized in a structured way, distribute work and even help each other. This means we can discover which bacteria cooperate and possibly which ones depend on each other, observing who sits next to who. "

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