Working together can have great benefits for the people, animals, plants and cells you find there. Some algae try to cheat, but it works against them.
The researchers studied this trickery in a species of green algae: a simple multicellular organism. Because among these algae are individuals who benefit from the advantages of living in a group, but who themselves benefit from it.
The algae species has two types of cells: reproductive cells which are supposed to multiply and body cells which are not supposed to. Normally, these cells work together, each with its own task, but if there are certain mutations in these body cells, they suddenly begin to reproduce. Because these cells are in the majority, you might think: in no time you will only have these kinds of cheat cells in a colony. But this is not the case: in nature, they always work together.
So there must be a downside to this sneaky behavior. The researchers exposed both cheater algae cells and regular algae cells to extreme conditions and saw significantly more cheater deaths. So it seems that the burden of this cheating is greater than what a cell gets out of it, and this may explain why cells started working together to form multicellular organisms in the first place.
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