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Title: The ecology and evolution of diversity and cooperation in bacterial public-goods
Author: Stilwell, Peter Robert
ISNI:       0000 0004 7231 9176
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2017
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Explaining why cooperation exists despite the persistent advantage of cheats has been the focus of much theoretical and empirical attention in biology. Using the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a model system for the evolution of cooperation, I investigate two distinct phenomena which may develop our understanding of how cooperation is maintained; 1) tag-based cooperation and diversity; and 2) environmental heterogeneity. The first investigates how diversity in cooperative systems may be a response to the selective pressure exerted by cheating, and how cheats may then regulate communities to maintain diversity: I demonstrate that in competition, tag-based cooperation is able to evade parasitism, provided the public-good is only accessible to producer strains, i.e., the cheat possesses the “wrong” tag. I also demonstrate that cheats can have a marked influence on diversity: In a community of two producer strains with different tags, if a third cheater strain is introduced, it will drive both its own producer and itself extinct. I do not find that the presence of cheats maintains diversity in either structured or unstructured environments, and discuss the possible causes of this. In the second topic of this thesis, I investigate the effect of environmental heterogeneity in resource availability, through space and time, on the evolution of cooperation. Environmental heterogeneity is a ubiquitous feature of natural landscapes, yet its effect on the evolution of cooperation has not been extensively studied. I demonstrate that resource availability heterogeneity, in both time and space, acts to maintain cooperation at higher levels than homogeneous environments of the same total resource value. This effect is due to the covariance between productivity and the cost of cooperation: high resource availability periods and spaces are highly productive, and also incur a relatively lower cost of cooperation.
Supervisor: Buckling, Angus Sponsor: BBSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: microbiology ; evolution ; greenbeard