Signalling and the evolution of cooperative foraging in dynamic environments

Torney, C. J. , Berdahl, A. and Couzin, I. D. (2011) Signalling and the evolution of cooperative foraging in dynamic environments. PLoS Computational Biology, 7(9), e1002194. (doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002194) (PMID:21966265) (PMCID:PMC3178622)

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Understanding cooperation in animal social groups remains a significant challenge for evolutionary theory. Observed behaviours that benefit others but incur some cost appear incompatible with classical notions of natural selection; however, these behaviours may be explained by concepts such as inclusive fitness, reciprocity, intra-specific mutualism or manipulation. In this work, we examine a seemingly altruistic behaviour, the active recruitment of conspecifics to a food resource through signalling. Here collective, cooperative behaviour may provide highly nonlinear benefits to individuals, since group functionality has the potential to be far greater than the sum of the component parts, for example by enabling the effective tracking of a dynamic resource. We show that due to this effect, signalling to others is an evolutionarily stable strategy under certain environmental conditions, even when there is a cost associated to this behaviour. While exploitation is possible, in the limiting case of a sparse, ephemeral but locally abundant nutrient source, a given environmental profile will support a fixed number of signalling individuals. Through a quantitative analysis, this effective carrying capacity for cooperation is related to the characteristic length and time scales of the resource field.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Torney, Dr Colin
Authors: Torney, C. J., Berdahl, A., and Couzin, I. D.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Mathematics and Statistics > Mathematics
Journal Name:PLoS Computational Biology
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN (Online):1553-7358
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2011 Torney et al.
First Published:First published in PLoS Computational Biology 7(9):e1002194
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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