Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 331–349 | Cite as

Biological individuality: the case of biofilms

Article

Abstract

This paper examines David Hull’s and Peter Godfrey-Smith’s accounts of biological individuality using the case of biofilms. Biofilms fail standard criteria for individuality, such as having reproductive bottlenecks and forming parent-offspring lineages. Nevertheless, biofilms are good candidates for individuals. The nature of biofilms shows that Godfrey-Smith’s account of individuality, with its reliance on reproduction, is too restrictive. Hull’s interactor notion of individuality better captures biofilms, and we argue that it offers a better account of biological individuality. However, Hull’s notion of interactor needs more precision. We suggest some ways to make Hull’s notion of interactor and his account of individuality more precise. Generally, we maintain that biofilms are a good test case for theories of individuality, and a careful examination of biofilms furthers our understanding of biological individuality.

Keywords

Biofilms Biological individuality Individuals Interactors Reproduction 

References

  1. Armstrong D (1980) Identity through time. In: Van Inwagen P (ed) Time and cause. D Reidel, Dordrecht, pp 67–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barraud N, Hassett D, Hwang S, Rice S, Kjelleberg S, Webb J (2006) Involvement of nitric oxide in biofilm dispersal of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. J Bacteriol 188:7344–7353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bracco E, Pergolizzi B, Peracino B, Ponte E, Balbo A, Mai A, Adriano C, Bozzaro S (2000) Cell signaling and adhesion in phagocytosis and early development of Dictyostelium. Int J Dev Biol 4:733–742Google Scholar
  4. Brandon R (1990) Adaptation and the environment. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  5. Clarke E (2010) The problem of biological individuality. Biol Theor 5:312–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Costerton J (2007) The biofilm primer. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davies J, Davies D (2010) Origins and evolution of antibiotic resistance. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev 74:417–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davies D, Parsek M, Pearson J, Iglewski B, Costerton J, Greenberg E (1998) The involvement of cell-to-cell signals in the development of a bacterial biofilm. Science 280:295–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dawkins R (1982) The extended phenotype. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  10. Dupré M, O’Malley M (2009) Varieties of living things: life at the intersection of lineage and metabolism. Philos Theor Biol. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/p/ptb/6959004.0001.003?rgn=main;view=fulltext
  11. Ehrlich G, Ahmed A, Earl J, Hiller N, Costerton J, Stoodley P, Post C, DeMeo P, Hu F (2010) The distributed genome hypothesis as a rubric for understanding evolution in situ during chronic bacterial biofilm infectious processes. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol 59:269–279Google Scholar
  12. Elias S, Banin E (2012) Multi-species biofilms: living with friendly neighbors. FEMS Microbiol Rev 6:990–1004Google Scholar
  13. Flemming H, Wingender J (2010) The biofilm matrix. Nat Rev Microbiol 8:623–633Google Scholar
  14. Ghigo J (2001) Natural conjugative plasmids induce bacterial biofilm development. Nature 412:442–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Godfrey-Smith P (2009) Darwinian populations and natural selection. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  16. Godfrey-Smith P (2011a) Agents and acacias: replies to Dennett, Sterelny, and Queller. Biol Philos 26:501–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Godfrey-Smith P (2011b) Darwinian populations and transitions in individuality. In: Calcott B, Sterelny K (eds) The major transitions in evolution revisited. The MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 65–81Google Scholar
  18. Godfrey-Smith P (2011c) The evolution of the individual. Lakatos Award Lecture, LSE, June 2011. http://www.petergodfreysmith.com/Evo_Ind_PGS_Lakatos_2011_Web.pdf
  19. Hall-Stoodley L, Costerton J, Stoodley P (2004) Bacterial biofilms: from the natural environment to infectious diseases. Nat Rev Microbiol 2:95–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hojo K, Nagaoka S, Ohshima T, Maeda N (2009) Bacterial interactions in dental biofilm development. Crit Rev Oral Biol Med 11:982–990Google Scholar
  21. Hull D (1976) Are species individuals? Syst Zool 25:174–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hull D (1978) A matter of individuality. Philos Sci 45:335–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hull D (1980) Individuality and selection. Ann Rev Eco Syst 11:311–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kolenbrander P, Andersen R, Blehert D, England P, Foster J, Palmer R (2002) Communication among oral bacteria. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev 66:486–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kolenbrander P, Palmer R, Periasamy S, Jakubovics N (2010) Oral multispecies biofilm development and the key role of cell-cell distance. Nat Rev Microbiol 8:471–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Langille M, Meehan C, Beiko R (2012) Human microbiome: a genetic bazaar for microbes? Curr Biol 22:R20–R22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lewontin R (1970) The units of selection. Ann Rev Eco Syst 1:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nikoh N, McCutcheon J, Kudo T, Miyagishima S-y, Moran N, Nakabachiet A (2010) Bacterial genes in the aphid genome: absence of functional gene transfer from Buchnera to its host. PLoS Genet. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000827
  29. Palmer R, Kazmerzak K, Hansen M, Kolenbrander P (2001) Mutualism versus independence: strategies of mixed-species oral biofilms in vitro using saliva as the sole nutrient source. Infect Immun 69:5794–5804CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rickard A, Gilbert P, High N, Kolenbrander P, Handley P (2003) Bacterial coaggregation: an integral process in the development of multi-species biofilms. Trends Microbiol 11:94–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sakuragi Y, Kolter R (2007) Quorum-sensing regulation of the biofilm matrix genes (pel) of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. J Bacteriol 189:5383–5386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Salmon W (1978) Why ask, ‘Why?’? An enquiry concerning scientific explanation. Proc Address Am Philos Assoc 51:683–705CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Salmon W (1984) Scientific explanation and the causal structure of the world. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  34. Shoemaker S (1979) Identity, properties, and causality. In: French P, Uehling T, Wettstein H (eds) Midwestern studies in philosophy VI. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp 321–342Google Scholar
  35. Sterelny K (2011) Darwinian spaces: Peter Godfrey-Smith on selection and evolution. Biol Philos 26:489–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stewart P, Franklin M (2008) Physiological heterogeneity in biofilms. Nat Rev Microbiol 6:199–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Thomas C, Nielsen K (2005) Mechanisms of, and barriers to, horizontal gene transfer between bacteria. Nat Rev Microbiol 3:711–721CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tribble G, Rigney T, Dao D, Wong C, Kerr J, Taylor B, Pacha S, Kaplan H (2012) Natural competence is a major mechanism for horizontal DNA transfer in the oral pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis. MBio. doi:10.1128/mBio.00231-11
  39. Wang B, Chi B, Kuramitsu H (2002) Genetic exchange between Treponema denticola and Streptococcus gordonii in biofilms. Oral Microbiol Immunol 17:108–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wiggins D (2001) Sameness and substance renewed. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

Personalised recommendations