At the origin of multicellularity, cells may have evolved aggregation in response to predation, for functional specialisation or to allow large-scale integration of environmental cues. These group-level properties emerged from the interactions between cells in a group, and determined the selection pressures experienced by these cells. We investigate the evolution of multicellularity with an evolutionary model where cells search for resources by chemotaxis in a shallow, noisy gradient. Cells can evolve their adhesion to others in a periodically changing environment, where a cell's fitness solely depends on its distance from the gradient source. We show that multicellular aggregates evolve because they perform chemotaxis more efficiently than single cells. Only when the environment changes too frequently, a unicellular state evolves which relies on cell dispersal. Both strategies prevent the invasion of the other through interference competition, creating evolutionary bi-stability. Therefore, collective behaviour can be an emergent selective driver for undifferentiated multicellularity.
- Enrico Sandro Colizzi
- Renske MA Vroomans
- Roeland MH Merks
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Raymond E Goldstein, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
© 2020, Colizzi et al.
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