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To Cooperate or Not to Cooperate: Why Behavioural Mechanisms Matter

Abstract : Mutualistic cooperation often requires multiple individuals to behave in a coordinated fashion. Hence, while the evolutionary stability of mutualistic cooperation poses no particular theoretical difficulty, its evolutionary emergence faces a chicken and egg problem: an individual cannot benefit from cooperating unless other individuals already do so. Here, we use evolutionary robotic simulations to study the consequences of this problem for the evolution of cooperation. In contrast with standard game-theoretic results, we find that the transition from solitary to cooperative strategies is very unlikely, whether interacting individuals are genetically related (cooperation evolves in 20% of all simulations) or unrelated (only 3% of all simulations). We also observe that successful cooperation between individuals requires the evolution of a specific and rather complex behaviour. This behavioural complexity creates a large fitness valley between solitary and cooperative strategies, making the evolutionary transition difficult. These results reveal the need for research on biological mechanisms which may facilitate this transition.
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Arthur Bernard, Jean-Baptiste André, Nicolas Bredeche. To Cooperate or Not to Cooperate: Why Behavioural Mechanisms Matter. PLoS Computational Biology, Public Library of Science, 2016, 12 (5), pp.e1004886. ⟨10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004886⟩. ⟨hal-01317424⟩

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