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Theor Popul Biol. 2008 Mar;73(2):257-63. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2007.11.007. Epub 2007 Dec 7.

Ecological public goods games: cooperation and bifurcation.

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Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, Harvard University, One Brattle Square, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The Public Goods Game is one of the most popular models for studying the origin and maintenance of cooperation. In its simplest form, this evolutionary game has two regimes: defection goes to fixation if the multiplication factor r is smaller than the interaction group size N, whereas cooperation goes to fixation if the multiplication factor r is larger than the interaction group size N. Hauert et al. [Hauert, C., Holmes, M., Doebeli, M., 2006a. Evolutionary games and population dynamics: Maintenance of cooperation in public goods games. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 273, 2565-2570] have introduced the Ecological Public Goods Game by viewing the payoffs from the evolutionary game as birth rates in a population dynamic model. This results in a feedback between ecological and evolutionary dynamics: if defectors are prevalent, birth rates are low and population densities decline, which leads to smaller interaction groups for the Public Goods game, and hence to dominance of cooperators, with a concomitant increase in birth rates and population densities. This feedback can lead to stable co-existence between cooperators and defectors. Here we provide a detailed analysis of the dynamics of the Ecological Public Goods Game, showing that the model exhibits various types of bifurcations, including supercritical Hopf bifurcations, which result in stable limit cycles, and hence in oscillatory co-existence of cooperators and defectors. These results show that including population dynamics in evolutionary games can have important consequences for the evolutionary dynamics of cooperation.

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