Competing metabolic strategies in a multilevel selection model

Competing metabolic strategies in a multilevel selection model
André Amado, Lenin Fernández, Weini Huang, Fernando F. Ferreira, Paulo R. A. Campos

The interplay between energy efficiency and evolutionary mechanisms is addressed. One important question is how evolutionary mechanisms can select for the optimised usage of energy in situations where it does not lead to immediate advantage. For example, this problem is of great importance to improve our understanding about the major transition from unicellular to multicellular form of life. The immediate advantage of gathering efficient individuals in an energetic context is not clear. Although this process increases relatedness among individuals, it also increases local competition. To address this question, we propose a model of two competing metabolic strategies that makes explicit reference to the resource usage. We assume the existence of an efficient strain, which converts resource into energy at high efficiency but displays a low rate of resource consumption, and an inefficient strain, which consumes resource at a high rate with a low efficiency in converting it to energy. We explore the dynamics in both well-mixed and structured populations. The selection for optimised energy usage is measured by the likelihood of that an efficient strain can invade a population only comprised by inefficient strains. It is found that the region of the parameter space at which the efficient strain can thrive in structured populations is always larger than observed in well-mixed populations. In fact, in well-mixed populations the efficient strain is only evolutionarily stable in the domain whereupon there is no evolutionary dilemma. We also observe that small group sizes enhance the chance of invasion by the efficient strain in spite of increasing the competition among relatives. This outcome corroborates the key role played by kin selection and shows that the group dynamics relied on group expansion, overlapping generations and group split can balance the negative effects of local competition.

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