Privatization of public goods can cause population decline, research shows

Privatization of public goods can cause population decline, research shows
Saccharomyces cerevisiae, SEM image. Unedited. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, Mogana Das Murtey and Patchamuthu Ramasamy.

Scientists have given a fascinating new insight into the way microbes adopt a 'co-operative' approach to securing the nutrients they need to thrive.

A team of bioscientists from the University of Exeter have investigated why microorganisms spurn a "survival of the fittest" mentality to instead adopt a seemingly risky communal strategy to acquire nutrients from their environment.

A common feeding strategy involves secreting metabolic products into the surrounding environment to break down and capture required complex nutrients.

However this strategy, at first glance, appears to be flawed—not only are some nutrients lost into the environment, but they can also be exploited by neighboring microbes that take the benefits without sharing the workload.

Now scientists have discovered a reason why microbes adopt this "public goods" approach, instead of keeping all the nutrients they need for themselves by breaking them down inside the cell.

They found that microbes that broke down nutrients internally rather than externally "took over" an otherwise stable population, leading it to become unstable and decline.

The research is published in the leading journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Professor Ivana Gudelj, co-author of the study and also from the University of Exeter's Living Systems Institute said: We were puzzled by the diversity of microbial feeding strategies observed in nature and created a synthetic microbial community to probe this further."

The research team examined the metabolism of Saccharomyces cerevisiae—more commonly known as Brewer's Yeast—for the study.

As well as investigating the microbes in their natural form and , the team also ran a series of sophisticated mathematical models, and synthetic ecological experiments, to determine why the "public goods" approach is commonly used in nature, despite its flaws.

They found that strategies that break down nutrients either internally or externally both have their own selective benefits when considered in isolation. In communities containing a mixture of these feeding strategies, microbes that broke nutrients down internally out-competed their neighbors. However, such a selfish strategy became unsustainable once the public good feeders had been out-competed.

They suggest a more co-operative approach, which can see some gaining nutrients they have not worked for, can strengthen the whole population, rather than individuals selfishly keeping resources for themselves.

Dr. Lindsay, co-author of the study added: "Through our interdisciplinary approach, we found that digesting resources externally is favored in fluctuating and rapidly changing environments or in non-diverse communities where they cannot be exploited."

"Privatization of public goods can cause population decline' by Richard Lindsay, Bogna Bawlowska and Ivana Gudelj from the University of Exeter is published in Nature Ecology & Evolution on July 22 2019.

Explore further

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More information: Richard J. Lindsay et al. Privatization of public goods can cause population decline, Nature Ecology & Evolution (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-0944-9
Journal information: Nature Ecology & Evolution

Citation: Privatization of public goods can cause population decline, research shows (2019, July 23) retrieved 22 August 2019 from
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Jul 23, 2019
Who fails to realize where the metaphor being promoted here originates? Shameful promotion and not applicable to real world politics.

Jul 23, 2019
oh my gosh & golly...
the horror of it all!
a inexplicable metaphor has been unleashed upon us all

how dare the authors of this article present evidence & surmise conclusions with such disregard of the readers innocence?

as benrass "rightly" fulminates against information that nay possibly influence other peoples opinions to be different from those he approves of

we readers might actually choose to make up our own minds about these issues

worst of all without beras permission or instructions

based on data he has not censored for our own good

Jul 23, 2019
It might not necessarily be a bad thing to reduce human population, but it's gonna take a while (a hundred years?). That of course assumes the birthrate declines; otherwise a whole lot of people are gonna die early from lack of resources. Or wars over lack of resources. This is not something anyone sane wants to see.

Jul 23, 2019
we could buy time with a reasonably equitable sharing of resources
buying rime for a number of solutions to resolve the looming crisis

or we could just keep doing what we have been doing all along
cause our lives would be meaningless
if we didn't have the latest gasguzzler monster truck
/spandex fetish video game joystick
/exclusive monkey-shit coffee to swill

forcibly extracting & plundering other peoples resources, at gun point & corruption of their societies for our profit
now it's our turn & putin is happy to show us the error of our ways

that ten percent of Humans consume ninety percent of this World's resources

as for the rest of Humanity?
all those we have been trampling in our childishly elephantine glory?

will be damn few tears shed at our graveside
just a big sigh of relief from the sparse few paid mourners

Jul 24, 2019
Inclusive fitness applied to the enzyme secreting species is the likely explanation. This paper seem - from the article - to propose an ecological community hypothesis but that would be an extraordinary explanation.

Who fails to realize where the metaphor being promoted here originates? Shameful promotion and not applicable to real world politics.

I do - using nature facts to propose social strategies is the naturalistic mistake [ https://en.wikipe..._fallacy ].

But as it happens we live in democratic societies that, say through ubiquitous taxes, do use public goods - we have done that since the first shared cooking fires. Get used to it.

Jul 24, 2019
This study, though very interesting, does not scale up to multicellular organisms.
Zero relevance for human society or its eating habits.
Most humans cannot dissolve their food into the atmosphere then inhale it. We chew it and break it down inside, no choice.

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