Mutualism, Parasitism, and Evolutionary Adaptation

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4 Author(s)

Our investigations concern the role of symbiosis as an enabling mechanism in evolutionary adaptation. Previous work has illustrated how the formation of mutualist groups can guide genetic variation so as to enable the evolution of ultimately independent organisms that would otherwise be unobtainable. The new experiments reported here show that this effect applies not just in genetically related organisms but may also occur from symbiosis between distinct species. In addition, a new detail is revealed: when the symbiotic group members are drawn from two separate species only one of these species achieves eventual independence and the other remains parasitic. lt is nonetheless the case that this second species, formerly mutualistic, was critical in enabling the independence of the first. We offer a biological example that is suggestive of the effect and discuss the implications for evolving complex organisms, natural and artificial