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Observing bacteria through the lens of social evolution

Carey D Nadell1, Bonnie L Bassler23 and Simon A Levin1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA

2 Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA

3 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 4000 Jones Bridge Road, Chevy Chase, MD 20815, USA

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Journal of Biology 2008, 7:27  doi:10.1186/jbiol87

Published: 30 September 2008


Explaining the evolution of cooperative behavior is a long-standing problem for which much theory has been developed. A recent paper in BMC Biology tests central elements of this theory by manipulating a simple bacterial experimental system. This approach is useful for assessing the principles of social evolution, but we argue that more effort must be invested in the inverse problem: using social evolution theory to understand the lives of bacteria.