Coarse-grained Theories of Cooperation and Myxobacteria
Saira Khan

October 20, 2023, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
The Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh

1117 Cathedral of Learning
University of Pittsburgh, 4200 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh 15260
United States

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The Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh invites you to join us for our Lunch Time Talk. Attend in person or visit our live stream on YouTube at

Lunch Time Talk:  Saira Khan

October 20 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT

Title: Coarse-grained Theories of Cooperation and Myxobacteria


A particular strain of myxobacteria known as Myxococcus xanthus has received attention for its cooperative predation. I examine whether the same explanations proposed to account for cooperation in other areas of the M. xanthus life-cycle – in quorum-sensing, social motility and fruiting body formation – can also account for their cooperative predation. I argue that cooperation in M. xanthus predation cannot be sustained by the same mechanisms. Part of the reason lies in a possible mischaracterisation of the cooperative problem as a linear public goods game or game in which strategies are independent of genes implicated in other M. xanthus activities. Another part lies in the insensitivity of these explanatory models to ecological and genomic context. These insights provide important lessons for our use of simplified models to explain real-world behaviours in a variety of organisms. 

This talk will also be available live streamed on YouTube at

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