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J Theor Biol. 2001 Nov 21;213(2):299-313.

Cooperative boundary populations: the evolution of cooperation on mortality risk gradients.

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Centre for Applied Ethics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Cooperative or altruistic behavior is known to be vulnerable to destructive exploitation in the absence of spatial segregation and perceptual discrimination on the part of cooperators. In this study, a non-standard, agent-based, spatially explicit model of the evolution of cooperation shows that spatial gradients of increasing individual mortality risk can allow cooperative subpopulations to persist among players randomly matched for one-shot Prisoner's Dilemma. Further, the dynamically stable cooperator population formed on the gradient at the boundary of the survivable non-cooperative range provides ideal conditions for the evolution of discriminating strategies such as tit-for-tat. It is suggested that such gradients may commonly exist at the boundaries of the ranges of existing populations, providing a new basic mechanism for the evolution of cooperation.

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