Functional Adaptations

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Functional adaptation

Partner diversity increases growth: acacia tree
 

The growth rate of the acacia tree increases by having sequential associations of several partners to meet changing needs.

   
  "Determining how multiple partnerships might interactivel affect lifetime fitness is a crucial unexplored link in understanding the evolution and maintenance of cooperation. The tropical tree Acacia drepanolobium associates with four symbiotic ant species whose short-term individual effects range from mutualistic to parasitic. Using a long-term dataset, we show that tree fitness is enhanced by partnering sequentially with sets of different ant symbionts over the ontogeny of a tree. These sets include a 'sterilization parasite' that prevents reproduction and another that reduces tree survivorship. Trees associating with partner sets that include these 'parasites' enhance lifetime fitness by trading off survivorship and fecundity at different life stages. Our results demonstrate the importance of evaluating mutualism within a community context and suggest that lifespan inequalities among mutualists may help cooperation persist in the face of exploitation." (Palmer et al. 2010:17234)
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Source: AskNature

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