Yeast colonies with mooches, thieves and cheats actually grow faster and larger than colonies without these freeloading individuals, according to a study published 15th September in PLoS Biology, challenging the widely held belief that cheaters bring only bad news to cooperating populations.
Researchers found that when some yeast
cheat their neighbors out of glucose,
the entire population grows faster.

Image: Eric Miller, Max Planck
Institute of Evolutionary Biology
"This is a most surprising result," said linkurl:Laurence Hurst; of the University of Bath in the UK, who coauthored the study. "The theory of cooperation was one of the best worked theories in all of evolution. Everyone assumed that it had to be the case that the world is better off when everyone cooperates."The results may explain why yeast populations tolerate the presence of cheaters, added linkurl:Michael Travisano,; a biologist at the University of Minnesota, who was not involved in the...
R.C. MacLean, et al., "A mixture of "cheats" and "cooperators" can enable maximal group benefit," PLoS Biol, 8(9): e1000486, 2010.

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