Information sharing and the evolution of multicellularity

  • Michael Lachmann (Santa Fe Institute)
A3 02 (Seminar room)


There have been several transitions during which individuals of the same species began to cooperate, forming higher levels of organization, and sometimes losing their independent reproductive identity. Two examples are multicellularity and insect societies, both of which evolved multiple times independently. Several factors that confer evolutionary advantages on higher levels of organization have been proposed in the past. I will highlight an additional factor: the sharing of information between individuals. Information sharing is not subject to the intrinsic conservation laws that characterize the sharing of physical resources. A simple model will illustrate how information sharing can result in aggregates in which the individuals both receive more information about their environment and pay less for it. This may have played a role in the evolution of higher levels of organization.