Insights & Perspectives
Cheats as first propagules: A new hypothesis for the evolution of individuality during the transition from single cells to multicellularity
Version of Record online: 19 AUG 2010
Copyright © 2010 WILEY Periodicals, Inc.
Volume 32, Issue 10, pages 872–880, October 2010
How to Cite
Rainey, P. B. and Kerr, B. (2010), Cheats as first propagules: A new hypothesis for the evolution of individuality during the transition from single cells to multicellularity. Bioessays, 32: 872–880. doi: 10.1002/bies.201000039
- Issue online: 13 SEP 2010
- Version of Record online: 19 AUG 2010
- biological complexity;
- experimental evolution;
- multi-level selection
The emergence of individuality during the evolutionary transition from single cells to multicellularity poses a range of problems. A key issue is how variation in lower-level individuals generates a corporate (collective) entity with Darwinian characteristics. Of central importance to this process is the evolution of a means of collective reproduction, however, the evolution of a means of collective reproduction is not a trivial issue, requiring careful consideration of mechanistic details. Calling upon observations from experiments, we draw attention to proto-life cycles that emerge via unconventional routes and that transition, in single steps, individuality to higher levels. One such life cycle arises from conflicts among levels of selection and invokes cheats as a primitive germ line: it lays the foundation for collective reproduction, the basis of a self-policing system, the selective environment for the emergence of development, and hints at a plausible origin for a soma/germ line distinction.