Rankin DJ, Bargum K, Kokko H. The tragedy of the commons in evolutionary biology. Trends Ecol Evol 22: 643-651

Division of Behavioural Ecology, Institute of Zoology, University of Bern, Wohlenstrasse 50a, CH-3032 Hinterkappelen, Switzerland.
Trends in Ecology & Evolution (Impact Factor: 16.2). 01/2008; 22(12):643-51. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2007.07.009
Source: PubMed


Garrett Hardin's tragedy of the commons is an analogy that shows how individuals driven by self-interest can end up destroying the resource upon which they all depend. The proposed solutions for humans rely on highly advanced skills such as negotiation, which raises the question of how non-human organisms manage to resolve similar tragedies. In recent years, this question has promoted evolutionary biologists to apply the tragedy of the commons to a wide range of biological systems. Here, we provide tools to categorize different types of tragedy and review different mechanisms, including kinship, policing and diminishing returns that can resolve conflicts that could otherwise end in tragedy. A central open question, however, is how often biological systems are able to resolve these scenarios rather than drive themselves extinct through individual-level selection favouring self-interested behaviours.

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Available from: Daniel Rankin, Jan 22, 2015
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    • "However, the Pareto efficiency strategy is to cooperate [15]. Without compulsive mechanisms such as reward [16], punishment [17] [18], the stable strategy is pure defection, which will cause the " tragedy of common " [19] [20]. Nevertheless, the experimental studies show that the fraction of cooperators of PGG is between 20% and 70% [21] [22] [23], while similar empirical studies also indicate that the cooperators are able to survive in reality [24], and the self-organized phenomena are observed in evacuation crowd [25] [26]. "
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    ABSTRACT: It is widely accepted that crowds are composed primarily of small groups. Based on this fact, the evacuation crowd is divided into small groups based on the rationality, and then the impact of rationality and ratios of small groups on the behavioral evolution is explored. Among the crowds, the rational small group allocates their investment based on the quality of game groups. By means of Monte-Carlo simulation, it is found that rational allocation will promote the cooperation, which concisely introduces the Matthew effect. The higher the rational degree is, the more significant cooperation promotion effect will be, and the decreasing of corresponding phase transition points will also be more remarkable. Then, the effect of the ratio of small group 1 is discussed. The results show that the fraction of cooperation in the crowd is negatively correlated with the ratio of small group 1. Lastly, the phase diagram for fraction of cooperation corresponding to different rationality and ratios of small group 1 is depicted by scanning of parameter spaces extensively. The phase diagram vividly shows the roles of rationality and ratio of small group 1. In conclusion, this paper reveals the behavioral evolution in evacuation crowd in some extent by introducing the heterogeneous rationality of small groups. Simultaneously, the framework of this paper is instructional for the future study of the behavioral evolution in evacuation crowd with multi small groups.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Applied Mathematics and Computation
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    • "In bacteria, the production of various substances such as extracellular polymers (Xavier and Foster 2007) or bacteriocins (Gardner et al. 2004) can benefit the producing bacteria and their clones, but can also harm neighboring bacteria. Competition may drive individuals to produce these substances in order to improve their individual fitness, resulting in reduced overall group productivity (Rankin et al. 2007). Reproductive competition between ant queens sharing the same colony forces them to overproduce eggs, enabling the workers to skew the sex ratio against the optimum of the queens (Fournier et al. 2003). "
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    ABSTRACT: Interference competition may lead to a tragedy of the commons in which individuals driven by self-interest reduce the fitness of the entire group. We investigated this hypothesis in Allenby's gerbils, Gerbillus andersoni allenbyi, by comparing foraging behaviors of single vs. pairs of gerbils. We recorded strong interference competition within the foraging pairs. Competition reduced the amount of time the gerbils spent foraging, as well as foraging efficiency since part of the foragers' attention was directed toward detecting competitors (apparent predation risk). Single gerbils harvested significantly more food than the combined efforts of two gerbils foraging together. Competition reduced the success of both individuals within a pair by more than 50%, making this a case of the tragedy of the commons where each individual's investment in competition reduces the success of all individuals within the group, including its own. Despite their great costs, competitive behaviors will be selected for as long as one individual achieves higher fitness than the other. In nature, interspecific interactions, such as predation risk, may act to reduce and regulate the deleterious effects of intraspecific competition.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Ecology
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    • "Several studies showed that the presence of belowground neighbours results in root overproliferation of plants at the expense of their seed production in some legume species (Glycine max, Gersani et al. 2001; Phaseolus vulgaris, Maina, Brown & Gersani 2002; Pisum sativum, O'Brien, Gersani & Brown 2005). These findings have been considered in an evolutionarily game-theoretical context (see Schieving & Poorter 1999; Anten & During 2011; McNickle & Dybzinski 2013 for detailed explanation) and framed as a 'tragedy of the commons' (TOC, Hardin 1968), a situation in which an arms race in root competition results in reduced seed production of a group or population of plants (Rankin, Bargum & Kokko 2007). However, recent work observed patterns in root responses to neighbours that were not compatible with the TOC hypothesis. "
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    ABSTRACT: 1. Plants are able to detect the presence of their neighbours below-ground. The associated root responses may affect plant performance, plant–plant interactions and community dynamics, but the extent and direction of these responses is heavily debated. 2. Some studies suggest that plants will over-proliferate roots in response to neighbours at the expense of reproduction, which was framed as a ‘tragedy of the commons’. Others propose an ‘ideal free distribution’ hypothesis stating that plants produce roots simply as a function of the amount of available nutrients. However, experimental evidence for either hypothesis that is unbiased by confounding effects of rooting volume and plant size in their experimental set-ups is still lacking. 3. We grew split-root pea plants in the presence or absence of a below-ground neighbour at a range of rooting volumes, while providing equal amounts of nutrients per plant. Path analyses were used to disentangle the direct effects of neighbour presence on allocation patterns from the confounding effects of rooting volume and plant size. 4. Within the chosen range of rooting volumes, the presence of a below-ground neighbour gen- erally reduced plant root mass by 21% and total mass by 9%. A doubling of rooting volume generally increased plant root mass by 22% and total mass by 11%. Pod mass was only directly and positively correlated with vegetative mass. 5. The presence of a below-ground neighbour induced less root allocation but more pod alloca- tion, whereas increased rooting volume caused a reduction in reproductive allocation. A large part of these effects, however, was indirectly mediated through the influence on plant total mass. 6. Synthesis. Not considering the effects of rooting volume and plant size may lead to misinter- pretations of plant growth strategies in response to neighbours. Accounting for these factors, we found pea allocating less mass to roots in the presence of a below-ground neighbour. The obtained results can help to reconcile the various responses to below-ground neighbours as they are published in the literature.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Functional Ecology
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