New Scientist: Black Queen Tells Microbes to be Lazy

 

The hypothesis of Erik Zinser, assistant professor of microbiology, is turning evolutionary theory on its head. Microorganisms can sometimes lose the ability to perform a function that appears to be necessary for their survival, and yet they still somehow manage to endure and multiply. How can this be? The Black Queen Hypothesis, puts forth the idea that some of the needs of microorganisms can be met by other organisms, enabling microbes that rely on one another to live more efficiently by paring down the genes they have to carry around. In these cases, it would make evolutionary sense for a microbe to lose a burdensome gene for a function it doesn’t have to perform for itself. Zinser and his co-authors studied a blue-green algae to develop the hypothesis.

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