Spatial Invasion of Cooperation

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Spatial Invasion of Cooperation

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Title: Spatial Invasion of Cooperation
Author: Langer, Philipp; Nowak, Martin A.; Christoph, Hauert

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Citation: Langer, Philipp, Martin A. Nowak, and Christoph Hauert. 2008. Spatial invasion of cooperation. Journal of Theoretical Biology 250(4): 634-641.
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Abstract: The evolutionary puzzle of cooperation describes situations where cooperators provide a fitness benefit to other individuals at some cost to themselves. Under Darwinian selection, the evolution of cooperation is a conundrum, whereas non-cooperation (or defection) is not. In the absence of supporting mechanisms, cooperators perform poorly and decrease in abundance. Evolutionary game theory provides a powerful mathematical framework to address the problem of cooperation using the prisoner's dilemma. One well-studied possibility to maintain cooperation is to consider structured populations, where each individual interacts only with a limited subset of the population. This enables cooperators to form clusters such that they are more likely to interact with other cooperators instead of being exploited by defectors. Here we present a detailed analysis of how a few cooperators invade and expand in a world of defectors. If the invasion succeeds, the expansion process takes place in two stages: first, cooperators and defectors quickly establish a local equilibrium and then they uniformly expand in space. The second stage provides good estimates for the global equilibrium frequencies of cooperators and defectors. Under hospitable conditions, cooperators typically form a single, ever growing cluster interspersed with specks of defectors, whereas under more hostile conditions, cooperators form isolated, compact clusters that minimize exploitation by defectors. We provide the first quantitative assessment of the way cooperators arrange in space during invasion and find that the macroscopic properties and the emerging spatial patterns reveal information about the characteristics of the underlying microscopic interactions.
Published Version: doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2007.11.002
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