Maintaining Cooperation

How organisms keep their biological partners from cheating

R. Ford Denison and Katherine Muller
Dec 31, 2015

For cooperation between species to withstand the inherently selfish nature of evolution, individuals that fail to cooperate must have fewer descendants than cooperators, on average.  This could result from fitness-reducing sanctions against cheaters or strict dependence of each partner on the other for survival. Partners may also manipulate each other in ways that enhance cooperation in the short term, without necessarily favoring evolution of cooperation over generations. Among related individuals, kin selection favors cooperation with related individuals that are likely to also carry the same genes for cooperation. These mechanisms for enhancing cooperation are not always foolproof, however.

MANIPULATION: Pseudomyrmex ferrugineus ants protect Acacia cornigera trees from diverse biological threats, and the trees have ways of manipulating the ants to remain loyal. Their nectar contains chemicals that prevent the ants from digesting nectar from other plants, such that individual ants learn to stay on their host plant.© LUCY...

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