Cooperation: The Emergence and Maintenance of Biological Complexity
Resendes de Sousa Antonio, Marina
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This dissertation seeks to provide a valuable contribution to the understanding of major evolutionary patterns that have shaped the evolution of biological complexity on Earth. In order to analyze these patterns two major events are screened: the emergence of multicellularity (Chapter I) and the emergence of social structures (Chapter III). Chapter II is dedicated to the forces involved in the maintenance of a complex stage (multicellularity). It is here hypothesized that while competition is the main evolutionary driving force, cooperation is the force driving increases in biological complexity. In this sense, increases in biological complexity can be interpreted as increases in the cooperation level. Cooperation is here interpreted to be an outcome of prolongued challenging circumstances, where cooperation becomes obligatory for survival. Two different types of biological complexity (cooperation) are distinguished: clonal and non-clonal. An increase in the cooperation levels among clonal (direct relatives - e.g. parent-offspring, sibling) life entities and non-clonal (not direct relatives) life entities will result in different outcomes, changes to the life unit in the former and changes in the transmission strategy in the latter (Chapter III). Established cooperations need to be systematically mantained or increased in order for complexity stages to be kept. Cooperative disruptions will cause a loss or regression of a complex stage, often with a signicant detrimental cost, or even lethal cost, to the life forms involved. This happens due to the compromise that advanced complex stages require, which include the loss of autonomy and the interdependecy with the cooperator(s). The overall vision of life on Earth as dominated and guided by competition underestimates the role cooperative efforts play. The shift in focus from competition to cooperation can have important implications in the search for solutions for health issues such as cancer (Chapter II) and in the development of healthy societies (Chapter III). The conclusions of this study are broad enough to be applicable to other putative life forms in existence elsewhere, as they are not sensitive to the physical nature of the life form.