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Power couples

J. Harry Caufield

I read about mutualism today. There has been - and continues to be - a long-running debate regarding the evolution of mutualism. The problem has often come down to a lack of evidence: we can be fairly confident that symbiotic mutualism is a real phenomenon but it's not always easy to demonstrate. We also know that many of the best examples of mutualism, such as chloroplasts, are the result of extensive evolution. Can mutualism emerge mutation, given the right circumstances for symbiotic partnerships to emerge?

A recent paper by Horn and Murray and accompanying summary article in Science show how it can happen. It's a neat, simple demonstration which would make a great elementary science class project.

Horn EFY, Murray AW (2014) Niche engineering demonstrates a latent capacity for fungal-algal mutualism. Science 345: 94–98.