Cheater-resistance is not futile


Cooperative social systems are susceptible to cheating by individuals that reap the benefits of cooperation without incurring the costs1. There are various theoretical mechanisms for the repression of cheating2 and many have been tested experimentally. One possibility that has not been tested rigorously is the evolution of mutations that confer resistance to cheating. Here we show that the presence of a cheater in a population of randomly mutated social amoebae can select for cheater-resistance. Furthermore, we show that this cheater-resistance can be a noble strategy because the resister strain does not necessarily exploit other strains. Thus, the evolution of resisters may be instrumental in preserving cooperative behaviour in the face of cheating.

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Figure 1: The presence of a cheater selects for cheater-resistance.
Figure 2: rccA is a noble, specific cheater-resister.
Figure 3: Cheater-resistance is a general phenomenon.


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This work was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. A. Khare was supported by a pre-doctoral fellowship from the Cullen Foundation.

Author Contributions A. Khare conducted the experimental work and wrote the paper, L.A.S. isolated the original LAS5 and LAS1 cheater strains. All of the authors conceived the study, discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gad Shaulsky.

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Khare, A., Santorelli, L., Strassmann, J. et al. Cheater-resistance is not futile. Nature 461, 980–982 (2009).

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