The Web of Life (33) Microbe Sociality


Microbes indulge in a variety of social behaviors involving complex systems of cooperation, communication, and synchronization. ~ English microbiologist Stuart West et al

There are biological constants to behaviors. The struggle to survive is shouldered with similar strategies and evasions across the domains of life. Microbial sociality echoes through evolution to the organisms that arose from them. The complexities and contradictions that characterize the sociality of the most intelligent macrobes are apparent in microbes.


Exchange between microbes is a crucial process driving the development of microbial ecosystems. ~ American microbiologist Michael Mee et al

Like macroorganisms, microbes participate in various cooperative social behaviors, though the intimacy of their cooperative endeavors far exceeds those of their larger successors.

Specific environmental cues may elicit cross-species coordination of gene expression among diverse microbial groups, potentially enabling multispecies coupling of metabolic activity. ~ Elizabeth Ottesen

Microbial group or colonial cooperation involves communications and willful exchanges that radically transform the lives of community members. Distinct microbe populations share nutrients and genes to keep microbial society as healthy and robust as possible.

The fitness of microorganisms can depend on cooperation between cells. ~ English microbiologist Ben Raymond et al

Microbes cooperate to better exploit resources, resist stressful environments, protect themselves and their territory against other microbes, and to wage war.

Microbes evolved multiple mechanisms for enforcing cooperation, by performing differential actions to others (i.e., rewarding cooperators and/or penalizing cheaters) according to kinship (i.e., genome-wide relatedness) or kind (i.e., phenotypic similarity caused by genetic relatedness at certain loci). Much discrimination in microbes appears to be based on kind rather than kin. ~ American plant pathologist Louise Glass et al