Shuffling the Deck

by Harrison Tasoff, UC Santa Barbara
May 3, 2022

We all must play the game of life with the cards we’re dealt, so the common aphorism goes. In biology, this means organisms must compete through natural selection with the genes and anatomy they were born with.

But the saying is a lie.

Okay, it’s not exactly a lie, but modern research suggests that the game of life is far more complicated than we had anticipated. There are opportunities to swap cards and even steal other players’ hands.

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have been investigating the effects of this strategy, particularly the ability to acquire metabolic pathways. The scientists found that adopting another metabolism can have major competitive consequences, with ramifications to a species’ evolution and ecology. The results appear in the journal Ecology.

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Read the Ecology paper: