Researchers have found worms which are genetically programmed to die before they get old in order to benefit their colony by reducing food demand.
According to a research team from the University College London, this is the first time they have come across such programmed and adaptive death in an animal.
The research team published their modelling results in the journal Aging Cell.
The first author of the research study, Evgeniy Galimov, says, “It’s been known for years that programmed cell death benefits living organisms, but we’re now realising there is programmed organismal death as well, that can benefit animal colonies.”
The lead author, David Gems, says, “Our findings are consistent with the old theory that ageing is beneficial in one way, as they show how increasing food availability for your relatives by dying early can be a winning strategy, which we call consumer sacrifice.”
These worms, Caenorhabditis elegans have genes which are programmed to die at early age.
Initially, the evolutionary theorists believed ageing evolved to decrease the population and have suffcient food for the young ones, but now scientists believe that for most animal species as longer-lived non-altruists would usually be favoured by natural selection.
David Gems also added, “But adaptive death can only evolve under certain special conditions where populations of closely related individuals don’t mix with non-relatives. So this is not predicted to apply to humans, but it seems to happen a lot in colonial microorganisms.”
In the recent study, researchers have developed a computer model of a C. elegans colony to watch their activites of food supply and check that wehter this changes the reproductive capacities of theri colony.
It was found out that shorter lifespan and shorter reproductive span increases the reproductive capacity of the colony.
The authors have planned to study actual C. Elegans colonies to test for behaviours predicted by the computer model.