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Ellison Abstract- 2000 Blackstone and Ellison

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Blackstone, N. W., & A. M. Ellison. 2000. Maximal indirect development, set-aside cells, and levels of selection. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular Development and Evolution) 288: 99-104.


The evolution of metazoan development as described by Davidson et al. (1995. Science 270:1319- 1325) is readily interpretable in terms of levels-of-selection conflicts, for instance, as recently modeled by Michod (1999. Darwinian Dynamics, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press). Davidson et al. propose certain features of early bilaterians including small size, a small and fixed number of cell divisions during and subsequent to cleavage, and specification of cell fates prior to cell movement. These features suggest constraints on certain parameters of Michod's model, specifically t (the time available for cell division) and b (the benefit to cells of not cooperating in terms of their rate of replication). Such constraints clearly enhance between-cell cooperation and allow multicellularity to more easily evolve and be maintained. Nevertheless, these constraints are completely abrogated by the phenomenon of "set-aside cells," that is, undifferentiated cells that retain indefinite division potential. Levels-of-selection theory predicts that the evolution of these set-aside cells must be accompanied by features which alleviate cell-cell competition, and indeed the results of Ransick et al. (1996. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 93:6759-6763) support this prediction: the evolution of "set-aside cells" in metazoans was accompanied by the evolution of the sequestration of the germ line. 

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