Restricting mutualistic partners to enforce trade reliance
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Mutualisms are cooperative interactions between members of different species, often involving the trade of resources. Here, we suggest that otherwise- cooperative mutualists might be able to gain a benefit from actively restricting their partners’ ability to obtain resources directly, hampering the ability of the restricted partner to survive and/or reproduce without the help of the restricting mutualist. We show that: (i) restriction can be favoured when restricting individuals increase their comparative advantage and thus receive more favourable terms of trade; (ii) restriction maintains cooperation in conditions where cooperative behaviour would otherwise collapse; and (iii) restriction can lead to either an increase or decrease in a restricted individual’s fitness. We discuss the applicability of this scenario to mutualisms such as those between plants and mycorrhizal fungi. These results identify a novel conflict in mutualisms as well as several public goods dilemmas, but also demonstrate how conflict can help maintain cooperation.
Wyatt , G , Kiers , E , Gardner , A & West , S 2016 , ' Restricting mutualistic partners to enforce trade reliance ' Nature Communications , vol 7 , 10322 . DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10322
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