Evolution of mediated cooperative interactions

Graduate Group in Ecology, Department of Evolution & Ecology

Melissa Whitaker

Melissa Whitaker

Cooperative interactions are ubiquitous in socio-economics as well as in biology. In both contexts, adaptations are expected to favor selfish individuals over those investing into costly services for maintaining cooperation. Often, the evolution and maintenance of cooperation is investigated using evolutionary game theory, with games usually involving two players. However, such two-player games likely represent an oversimplification of cooperative interactions, as it is increasingly recognized that tight pairwise interactions between groups or species are far less common than associations among sets of interaction partners. Motivated by a concrete biological example (the well-known interaction between ants, caterpillars, and microbes), we will analyze a specific class of three-player interactions, in which the third player initially acts as a neutral mediator of a cooperative interaction, but may over time evolve a participation strategy for itself. Such mediated games with a non-neutral mediator will extend evolutionary games theory towards more realistic cooperative interactions, with results contributing new insights not only into the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of biological species interactions in nature, but also into the dynamics of structurally analogous socio-economic and political processes.

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Last edited: 24 March 2016

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