Frank, S. A. 2020. Metabolic heat in microbial conflict and cooperation. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 8:275.
Many microbes live in habitats below their optimum temperature. Retention of metabolic heat by aggregation or insulation would boost growth. Generation of excess metabolic heat may also provide benefit. A cell that makes excess metabolic heat pays the cost of production, whereas the benefit may be shared by neighbors within a zone of local heat capture. Metabolic heat as a shareable public good raises interesting questions about conflict and cooperation of heat production and capture. Metabolic heat may also be deployed as a weapon. Species with greater thermotolerance gain by raising local temperature to outcompete less thermotolerant taxa. Metabolic heat may provide defense against bacteriophage attack, by analogy with fever in vertebrates. This article outlines the theory of metabolic heat in microbial conflict and cooperation, presenting several predictions for future study.