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Social evolution

Kin preference in a social microbe

Given the right circumstances, even an amoeba chooses to be altruistic towards its relatives.


Kin recognition helps cooperation to evolve in many animals1, but it is uncertain whether microorganisms can also use it to focus altruistic behaviour on relatives. Here we show that the social amoeba Dictyostelium purpureum prefers to form groups with its own kin in situations where some individuals die to assist others. By directing altruism towards kin, D. purpureum should generally avoid the costs of chimaerism2,3 experienced by the related D. discoideum.

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Figure 1: Kin discrimination during social development in the amoeba Dictyostelium purpureum.


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Correspondence to Natasha J. Mehdiabadi.

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Mehdiabadi, N., Jack, C., Farnham, T. et al. Kin preference in a social microbe. Nature 442, 881–882 (2006).

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