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Colonies grow restraint: Escherichia coli


Bacteria colonies / Dave_Lunt / LicenseCC-by-nc-sa - Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike

Colonies of Escherichia coli bacteria survive longer by developing restraint that allows competitors to survive.

"New research...shows that in some structured communities, organisms increase their chances of survival if they evolve some level of restraint that allows competitors to survive as well, a sort of 'survival of the weakest.' The phenomenon was observed in a community of three 'nontransitive' competitors, meaning their relationship to each other is circular as in the children's game rock-paper-scissors in which scissors always defeats paper, paper always defeats rock and rock always defeats scissors...'By becoming a better competitor in a well-mixed system, it could actually drive itself to extinction,' said Joshua Nahum...The restrained patches, the ones that grew slower, seemed to last longer and the unrestrained patches, the ones that grew faster, burned themselves out faster'...To understand the process, imagine a community of three strains [of bacteria], Rock, Paper and Scissors, and then imagine the emergence of an unrestrained supercompetitor, Rock* (rock star), that is able to displace Scissors even faster than regular Rock can. But that also makes Rock* a better competitor against Rock, the researchers said. Eventually Rock* will be a victim of its own success, being preyed upon by Paper." (Stricherz 2011:1)
About the inspiring organism
Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli (Migula 1895) Castellani and Chalmers 1919 (Approved Lists 1980)

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: BIOS: Bacteriology Insight Orienting System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Social interactions in all realms that would increase diversity of those who interact.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Management, Politics, Community Planning

Stricherz V. 2011. Bacteria develop restraint for survival in a rock-paper-scissors community. EurekAlert [Internet], Accessed 20 June 2011.
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Nahum JR; Harding BN; Kerr B. 2011. Evolution of restraint in a structured rock–paper–scissors community. PNAS. 108(2): 10831-10838.
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about 1 month ago
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