Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Programmed altruistic, adaptive death that increases fitness could occur in C. elegans & S. cerevisiae; could promote worm fitness by enhancing inclusive fitness, or worm colony fitness through group selection

Does senescence promote fitness in Caenorhabditis elegans by causing death? Jennifer N. Lohr, Evgeniy R. Galimov, David Gems. Ageing Research Reviews, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2019.01.008

Highlights
•    Senescent death of older inviduals could benefit younger kin
•    Theory rules out such programmed death in outbred, dispersed populations
•    C. elegans breed as non-dispersed, clonal populations of protandrous hermaphrodites
•    Under these conditions programmed, adaptive death could evolve

Abstract: A widely appreciated conclusion from evolutionary theory is that senescence (aging) is of no adaptive value to the individual that it afflicts. Yet studies of Caenorhabditis elegans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae are increasingly revealing the presence of processes which actively cause senescence and death, leading some biogerontologists to wonder about the established theory. Here we argue that programmed death that increases fitness could occur in C. elegans and S. cerevisiae, and that this is consistent with the classic evolutionary theory of aging. This is because of the special conditions under which these organisms have evolved, particularly the existence of clonal populations with limited dispersal and, in the case of C. elegans, the brevity of the reproductive period caused by protandrous hermaphroditism. Under these conditions, death-promoting mechanisms could promote worm fitness by enhancing inclusive fitness, or worm colony fitness through group selection. Such altruistic, adaptive death is not expected to evolve in organisms with outbred, dispersed populations (e.g. most vertebrate species). The plausibility of adaptive death in C. elegans is supported by computer modelling studies, and new knowledge about the ecology of this species. To support these arguments we also review the biology of adaptive death, and distinguish three forms: consumer sacrifice, biomass sacrifice and defensive sacrifice.