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An evolutionary mechanism for diversity in siderophore-producing bacteria

Authors

  • William Lee,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK
      E-mail:william.lee.2008@live.rhul.ac.uk
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  • Minus van Baalen,

    1. CNRS UMR 7625 Ecologie et Evolution, F-75005 Paris, France; UPMC UMR 7625 Ecologie et Evolution, F-75005 Paris, France; ENS UMR 7625 Ecologie et Evolution, F-75005, Paris, France
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  • Vincent A. A. Jansen

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK
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E-mail:william.lee.2008@live.rhul.ac.uk

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2011)

Abstract

Bacteria produce a great diversity of siderophores to scavenge for iron in their environment. We suggest that this diversity results from the interplay between siderophore producers (cooperators) and non-producers (cheaters): when there are many cheaters exploiting a siderophore type it is beneficial for a mutant to produce a siderophore unusable by the dominant population. We formulated and analysed a mathematical model for tagged public goods to investigate the potential for the emergence of diversity. We found that, although they are rare most of the time, cheaters play a key role in maintaining diversity by regulating the different populations of cooperators. This threshold-triggered feedback prevents any stain of cooperators from dominating the others. Our study provides a novel general mechanism for the evolution of diversity that may apply to many forms of social behaviour.

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