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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7551/978-0-262-31050-5-ch030
Pages 218-225
First published 2 July 2012

Effects of public good properties on the evolution of cooperation

Dusan Misevic, Antoine Frénoy, David P. Parsons, François Taddei

Abstract

Cooperation is a still unsolved and ever-controversial topic in evolutionary biology. Why do organisms engage in activities with long-term communal benefits but short-term individual cost? A general answer remains elusive, suggesting many important factors must still be examined and better understood. Here we study cooperation based on the secretion of a public good molecule using Aevol, a digital platform inspired by microbial cooperation systems. Specifically, we focus on the environmental and physical properties of the public good itself, its mobility, durability, and cost. The intensity of cooperation that evolves in our digital populations, as measured by the amount of the public good molecule organisms secrete, strongly depends on the properties of such a molecule. Specifically, and somewhat counter intuitively, digital organisms evolve to secrete more when public good degrades or diffuses quickly. The evolution of secretion also depends on the interactions between the population structure and public good properties, not just their individual values. Environmental factors affecting population diversity have been extensively studied in the past, but here we show that physical aspects of the cooperation mechanism itself may be equally if not more important. Given the wide range of substrates and environments that support microbial cooperation in nature, our results highlight the need for careful consideration of public good properties when studying the evolution of cooperation in bacterial or computational models.