Arne Traulsen: Modelling the evolutionary competition of life cycles
Even bacteria can show very diverse life cycles, from unicellularity to the concerted fragmentation of multicellular units. Which life cycle is optimal in which environment? In this context, "optimal" means that the life cycle can produce biomass at the fastest rate. Using matrix population models, it can be shown that only a small subset of the huge number of possible life cycles can be optimal in any fitness landscape. Adding reproduction costs that occur when groups fragment can lead to more complex life cycles. Strikingly, the impact of these costs alone can be strong enough to drive the emergence of multicellular groups, even under scenarios that strongly disfavour groups compared to solitary individuals.
Professor Arne Traulsen, Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Biology