Tuesday, September 08, 2015

importance of mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation


royalsociety |  Studies aimed at explaining the evolution of phenotypic traits have often solely focused on fitness considerations, ignoring underlying mechanisms. In recent years, there has been an increasing call for integrating mechanistic perspectives in evolutionary considerations, but it is not clear whether and how mechanisms affect the course and outcome of evolution. To study this, we compare four mechanistic implementations of two well-studied models for the evolution of cooperation, the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma (IPD) game and the Iterated Snowdrift (ISD) game. Behavioural strategies are either implemented by a 1 : 1 genotype–phenotype mapping or by a simple neural network. Moreover, we consider two different scenarios for the effect of mutations. The same set of strategies is feasible in all four implementations, but the probability that a given strategy arises owing to mutation is largely dependent on the behavioural and genetic architecture. Our individual-based simulations show that this has major implications for the evolutionary outcome. In the ISD, different evolutionarily stable strategies are predominant in the four implementations, while in the IPD each implementation creates a characteristic dynamical pattern. As a consequence, the evolved average level of cooperation is also strongly dependent on the underlying mechanism. We argue that our findings are of general relevance for the evolution of social behaviour, pleading for the integration of a mechanistic perspective in models of social evolution.