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Cheating to score a free ride is a well-documented behaviour by many animals, even plants. But algae? Yes, they do it too, said biologists William Driscoll, who led the study as part of his doctoral research on toxic algae devastating U.S. waters, isolated several strains of the species, Prymnesium parvum, and noticed that some grew more quickly and do not produce any of the toxins that protect the algae against competition from other species of algae.

“When those ‘cheaters’ are cultured with their toxic counterparts, they can still benefit from the toxins produced by their cooperative neighbours — they are true ‘free riders,’” Driscoll said, according to an Arizona statement.

The study adds to the emerging view that microbes often have active social lives.IANS



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