Prof. Christian Kost
Department of Ecology
University of Osnabrück
Title: "On the evolution of mutualistic cooperation within microbial communities"
Abstract: Cooperative interactions challenge evolutionary theory: why should one organism invest costly resources to benefit other individuals rather than using them to enhance its own fitness? Despite this conundrum, obligate interactions, in which two or more organisms exchange costly metabolites, are very common in nature. However, the factors facilitating the evolution of metabolic cooperation remain poorly understood.
We address this issue by using microbial communities as tractable model systems. Our experiments reveal that adaptive advantages drive the evolution of cooperative cross-feeding within microbial communities: by losing the ability to autonomously synthesize certain metabolites, bacteria become dependent on other community members producing these compounds. The resulting metabolic interdependencies trigger a coevolutionary process, during which reciprocal cooperative investments increase rapidly.
In my talk, I will discuss the evolutionary drivers of this process and highlight how the emergent population dynamics enhances cooperativity within physiologically interconnected consortia.
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