Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 521–530 | Cite as

Social behaviour in genetically heterogeneous groups of Dictyostelium giganteum

  • Sonia Kaushik
  • Bandhana Katoch
  • Vidyanand Nanjundiah
Original Article


The Dictyostelid or cellular slime moulds (CSMs) are soil amoebae with an asexual life cycle involving social behaviour and division of labour. The most obvious distinction is between ‘germ line’ or pre-spore cells, which survive, and ‘somatic’ or pre-stalk cells, which eventually die. A plausible hypothesis to explain the apparent altruism of pre-stalk cells is that it is directed at clonal relatives. We have tested this hypothesis by comparing indices of altruistic behaviour between clonal and chimeric (genetically heterogeneous) social groups. The groups were generated by mixing amoebae belonging to distinguishable strains of Dictyostelium giganteum. The amoebae of one strain do not aggregate at all when mixed with any of three other strains and aggregate poorly with a fourth. Among the latter, co-aggregation occurs but is followed by varying extents of sorting out. At times, two strains form separate fruiting bodies; in other cases, they remain together but are clustered in clonal groups within a single chimeric structure. Our expectation was that the allocation of cells to the stalk pathway would be higher, and to the spore pathway lower, in clonal social groups than in chimeras. The expectation was not always fulfilled. In addition, three strains could be arrayed in a linear rank order in terms of the relative efficiencies of spore-formation in binary mixtures; but when all three were mixed, they were equally efficient. More than overall genetic similarity, cell fate in a chimera seems to result from complex non-linear interactions based on epigenetic differences.


Social behaviour Dictyostelium Kin selection Altruism 



We are grateful to J.C. Cavender for help in identifying the strains, and thank J.T. Bonner, R. Gadagkar and K. Inouye for several helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. The text has benefited substantially from the detailed criticisms of anonymous referees. B.K. acknowledges the award of a Senior Research Fellowship from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sonia Kaushik
    • 1
  • Bandhana Katoch
    • 2
  • Vidyanand Nanjundiah
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Ecological SciencesBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.Department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and GeneticsIndian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia
  3. 3.Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific ResearchBangaloreIndia

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