Novel cooperation experimentally evolved between species

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213 Scopus citations


Cooperation violates the view of "nature red in tooth and claw" that prevails in our understanding of evolution, yet examples of cooperation abound. Most work has focused on maintenance of cooperation within a single species through mechanisms such as kin selection. The factors necessary for the evolutionary origin of aiding unrelated individuals such as members of another species have not been experimentally tested. Here, I demonstrate that cooperation between species can be evolved in the laboratory if (1) there is preexisting reciprocation or feedback for cooperation, and (2) reciprocation is preferentially received by cooperative genotypes. I used a two species system involving Salmonella enterica ser. Typhimurium and an Escherichia coli mutant unable to synthesize an essential amino acid. In lactose media Salmonella consumes metabolic waste from E. coli, thus creating a mechanism of reciprocation for cooperation. Growth in a spatially structured environment assured that the benefits of cooperation were preferentially received by cooperative genotypes. Salmonella evolved to aid E. coli by excreting a costly amino acid, however this novel cooperation disappeared if the waste consumption or spatial structure were removed. This study builds on previous work to demonstrate an experimental origin of interspecific cooperation, and to test the factors necessary for such interactions to arise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2166-2172
Number of pages7
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Consortia
  • Cross-feeding
  • E. coli
  • Salmonella
  • Spatial structure


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