Biofilms in Ecology and Evolution
Why do bacteria form biofilms? Bacteria that are bound in biofilms are highly resistant against antibiotics and other chemical insults of the environment, which is a clear evolutionary advantage of forming biofilms. Remarkably, the mechanisms underlying the biofilm-antibiotic interaction is poorly understood, and we are investigating unicellular and multicellular responses to antibiotics in biofilms [Diaz-Pascual et al. 2019].
Apart from providing protection against toxins, evolutionary advantages to biofilm formation are vague. However, we recently found the mechanisms underlying the most important selective advantage of making a biofilm: predation avoidance by bacteriophages. [Vidakovic, et al. 2018; Simmons, et al. 2018; Simmons et al. 2019]
We also recently discovered another reason for why bacteria may want to form biofilms: physical aspects of the biofilm life style strongly favor the evolution of simple social behaviors, such as the production of shared resources or "public goods" [Drescher, et al. 2014; Nadell, et al. 2013]. In addition, we are investigation social interactions in spatially structured biofilm communities [Dragos, et al. 2018; Nadell, et al. 2016].