Publication Date: 2013.
The transition from unicellular, to colonial, to larger multicellular organisms has benefits, costs, and requirements. Here we present a model inspired by the volvocine green algae that explains the dynamics involved in the unicellular-multicellular transition using life-history theory and allometry. We model the two fitness components (fecundity and viability) and compare the fitness of hypothetical colonies of different sizes with varying degrees of cellular differentiation to understand the general principles that underlie the evolution of multicellularity. We argue that germ-soma separation may have evolved to counteract the increasing costs and requirements of larger multicellular colonies. The model shows that the cost of investing in soma decreases with size. For lineages such as the Volvocales, as reproduction costs increase with size for undifferentiated colonies, soma specialization benefits the colony indirectly by decreasing such costs and directly by helping reproductive cells acquire resources for their metabolic needs. Germ specialization is favored once soma evolves and takes care of vegetative functions. To illustrate the model, we use some allometric relationships measured in Volvocales. Our analysis shows that the cost of reproducing an increasingly larger group has likely played an important role in the transition to multicellularity and cellular differentiation.
Author affiliation: Solari, Cristian Alejandro. Universidad de Buenos Aires. Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales. Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología Experimental; Argentina. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas. Oficina de Coordinacion Administrativa Ciudad Universitaria; Argentina
Author affiliation: Kessler, John O.. University Of Arizona; Estados Unidos
Author affiliation: Goldstein, Raymond E.. University of Cambridge; Reino Unido
Repository: CONICET Digital (CONICET). Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas