On the origin of differentiation
Following the origin of multicellularity in many groups of primitive organisms there evolved more than one cell type. It has been assumed that this early differentiation is related to size — the larger the organism the more cell types. Here two very different kinds of organisms are considered: the volvocine algae that become multicellular by growth, and the cellular slime moulds that become multicellular by aggregation. In both cases there are species that have only one cell type and others that have two. It has been possible to show that there is a perfect correlation with size: the forms with two cell types are significantly larger than those with one. Also in both groups there are forms of intermediate size that will vary from one to two cell types depending on the size of the individuals, suggesting a form of quorum sensing. These observations reinforce the view that size plays a critical role in influencing the degree of differentiation.
Volume 45, 2020
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