Economic game theory for mutualism and cooperation

Authors

  • Marco Archetti,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Museum of Comparative Zoology, 26 Oxford St., Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
    2. Department of Business and Economics, University of Basel, Peter Merian-Weg 6, Basel 4002, Switzerland
      Correspondence: E-mail:archetti.marco@googlemail.com, npierce@oeb.harvard.edu, dougwyu@gmail.com
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  • István Scheuring,

    1. Research Group of Theoretical Biology and Ecology, Department of Plant Taxonomy and Ecology, Eötvös University and HAS, Pázmány Péter sétány 1C, Budapest H-1117, Hungary
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  • Moshe Hoffman,

    1. Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego, Otterson Hall, 9500 Gilman Drive #0553, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
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  • Megan E. Frederickson,

    1. Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, 25 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S3G5, Canada
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  • Naomi E. Pierce,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Museum of Comparative Zoology, 26 Oxford St., Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
      Correspondence: E-mail:archetti.marco@googlemail.com, npierce@oeb.harvard.edu, dougwyu@gmail.com
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  • Douglas W. Yu

    Corresponding author
    1. Ecology, Conservation, and Environment Center (ECEC), State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, 32 Jiaochang East Rd., Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan 650223, China
    2. School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, Norfolk NR47TJ, UK
      Correspondence: E-mail:archetti.marco@googlemail.com, npierce@oeb.harvard.edu, dougwyu@gmail.com
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Correspondence: E-mail:archetti.marco@googlemail.com, npierce@oeb.harvard.edu, dougwyu@gmail.com

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 1300–1312

Abstract

We review recent work at the interface of economic game theory and evolutionary biology that provides new insights into the evolution of partner choice, host sanctions, partner fidelity feedback and public goods. (1) The theory of games with asymmetrical information shows that the right incentives allow hosts to screen-out parasites and screen-in mutualists, explaining successful partner choice in the absence of signalling. Applications range from ant-plants to microbiomes. (2) Contract theory distinguishes two longstanding but weakly differentiated explanations of host response to defectors: host sanctions and partner fidelity feedback. Host traits that selectively punish misbehaving symbionts are parsimoniously interpreted as pre-adaptations. Yucca-moth and legume-rhizobia mutualisms are argued to be examples of partner fidelity feedback. (3) The theory of public goods shows that cooperation in multi-player interactions can evolve in the absence of assortment, in one-shot social dilemmas among non-kin. Applications include alarm calls in vertebrates and exoenzymes in microbes.

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