Gergely Boza

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria & Eötvös University, Hungary.

The evolution of conditional and context-dependent investments in mutualisms

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The vulnerability of cooperative behaviour to cheater strategies exploiting cooperators has been studied widely both within and between species, primarily focusing on discrete strategies with rigid investment levels. A growing amount of empirical evidence suggests, however, that numerous mutualistic investment are determined in much more complex ways and often depend significantly on the context. We aim to capture such complexity with game-theoretical models. In particular, our aim is to understand factors promoting the emergence and stability of conditional cooperative behavior, regarded as continuous investments performed by individuals with reactive strategies. We demonstrate that reactivity, which defines a plasticity of investments in response to the partners’ investment behavior, may stabilize cooperation and offer a safeguard against exploitation. However, low reactivity can destabilize investment levels, as well as the unfavorable change of environmental conditions or the number and quality of partners. We demonstrate that several factors, such as strategy diversity or spatially limited interactions, may offer efficient measures counteracting such break-down of such mutualistic investments. Our investigations shed light on yet unexplored aspects of diversity and dynamical complexity of mutualistic interactions.

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