Selfishness can be good at times

Selfishness can be good at times

Researchers in Europe analysed populations of yeast and found that a mixture of “cooperators” and “cheats” grew faster than a more utopian one of only “cooperators”.

For their study, the researchers from Imperial College London, Bath University, Oxford University, University College London and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology used laboratory experiments and a mathematical model to understand why and how a little “selfishness” can benefit the population.

In the study, the “cooperator” yeast produce a protein called invertase that breaks down sugar (sucrose) to give food (glucose) that is available to the rest of the population. The “cheats” eat the broken down sugar but don’t make invertase themselves, and so save their energy.

Lead researcher Prof Laurence Hurst of University of Bath said: “We found that yeast used sugar more efficiently when it was scarce, and so having ‘cheats’ in the population stopped the yeast from wasting their food.

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