Helping on the move: A theoretical study shows that mobility of organisms can promote cooperation.

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Previous studies have argued that movement of organisms typically does not favour animals helping or cooperating each other. Therefore, in species that exhibit collective movement and fission-fusion among groups, cooperation is considered unlikely to occur. In a recent paper published in PLoS Computational Biology, Jaideep Joshi (PhD student), Vishwesha Guttal and collaborators from Germany and USA challenge this common perception. Using computer simulations and mathematical theories, they suggest that mobility can create conditions in which cooperation could, in fact, be much more prevalent.

Authors employ spatially-explicit individual-based evolutionary simulations that incorporate costs and benefits of two coevolving costly traits: cooperative and local cohesive tendencies. Beginning from a population of all defectors and solitary individuals, they demonstrate that mobility facilitates the emergence of cooperation. They find that cooperation is maintained via a dynamically evolving difference in the cohesive tendencies of cooperators and defectors.

Authors also develop analytical model and show that their results can also be viewed in a multilevel selection framework, where selection for cooperation among emergent groups can overcome selection against cooperators within the groups. Thus, counter to previous expectations, this work suggests that mobility can create conditions in which cooperation could, in fact, be much more prevalent. They also suggest several implication of their work to the idea of grdeenbeads in the evolutionary biology literature and treatment of diseases like cancer that involve collective behaviour.

Citation: Joshi J, Couzin ID, Levin SA, Guttal V (2017) Mobility can promote the evolution of cooperation via emergent self-assortment dynamics. PLoS Comput Biol 13(9): e1005732.

Link to the paper: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005732

Research Story: https://researchmatters.in/article/new-study-mobility-may-prove-helpful-...

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