What is a life form? Most of us, if asked, will think of an animal or a human being-in other words, a multicellular organism. However, life itself evolved in cells, single cells of various types that existed and propagated independently. What are, then, the factors that led cells to collaborate together and give rise to complex organisms? Collaboration is possible only if there are no cheaters -cells that exploit the collaboration of others- and cheaters always arise. How is possible, then, for a multicellular organism to develop? Do the cheaters need to be eliminated –an evolutionary impossibility- for complex organisms to occur? This seems the classic common sense response. However, new and unexpected findings by a team of scientists working in New Zealand and the US, suggest the opposite: that the presence of cheaters can be instrumental to the formation of self-generating groups of cells, or collectives.
Evolution can be studied in many ways; fossil examination is a well-known example. However, for researchers looking to have results in a quicker fashion –and with the added bonus of controlling variables within their experiments- bacterial models are the gold standard. Bacteria are used as they grow fast, in most cases multiple generations in one day, and their visible characteristics (their “phenotype