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Restricting mutualistic partners to enforce trade reliance

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Gregory Wyatt, Erica Kiers, Andy Gardner, Stuart West

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Abstract

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.
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Original languageEnglish
Article number10322
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2016

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ID: 237835679

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