19 June 2012
4 - 5pm
Venue: Ground Floor Seminar Room (G010), UniServices House, 70 Symonds Street, Auckland
A Bioengineering research seminar by Distinguished Professor Paul Rainey, James Cook Research Fellow, New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study, Massey University, Albany, and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Plön, Germany
Evolutionary transitions in Darwinian individuality are central to the emergence of biological complexity. During the transition from single cells to multicellular life, populations of cells acquired the capacity for collective-reproduction; however, the selective causes and underlying mechanisms are unknown. I will describe an experiment in which we witness the emergence of Darwinian individuality in populations of cooperating bacteria subjected to a selective regime that rewards collective-level fecundity. Central to collective reproductive success is a primitive life cycle that is fueled by conflict between levels of selection. Enhanced fitness of derived groups is attributable to a property selected at the group-level, namely, the capacity to transition through phases of a life cycle, and is not explained by improvement in individual cell fitness. The experiment captures pivotal stages in the transition of selection from lower to higher levels, provides mechanistic insight into the selective causes and documents the evolution of emergence.