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Theor Popul Biol. 2013 May;85:12-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2013.01.003. Epub 2013 Jan 18.

Joint evolution of altruistic cooperation and dispersal in a metapopulation of small local populations.

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Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Turku, FI-20014, Finland.


We investigate the joint evolution of public goods cooperation and dispersal in a metapopulation model with small local populations. Altruistic cooperation can evolve due to assortment and kin selection, and dispersal can evolve because of demographic stochasticity, catastrophes and kin selection. Metapopulation structures resulting in assortment have been shown to make selection for cooperation possible. But how does dispersal affect cooperation and vice versa, when both are allowed to evolve as continuous traits? We found four qualitatively different evolutionary outcomes. (1) Monomorphic evolution to full defection with positive dispersal. (2) Monomorphic evolution to an evolutionarily stable state with positive cooperation and dispersal. In this case, parameter changes selecting for increased cooperation typically also select for increased dispersal. (3) Evolutionary branching can result in the evolutionarily stable coexistence of defectors and cooperators. Although defectors could be expected to disperse more than cooperators, here we show that the opposite case is also possible: Defectors tend to disperse less than cooperators when the total amount of cooperation in the dimorphic population is low enough. (4) Selection for too low cooperation can cause the extinction of the evolving population. For moderate catastrophe rates dispersal needs to be initially very frequent for evolutionary suicide to occur. Although selection for less dispersal in principle could prevent such evolutionary suicide, in most cases this rescuing effect is not sufficient, because selection in the cooperation trait is typically much stronger. If the catastrophe rate is large enough, a part of the boundary of viability can be evolutionarily attracting with respect to both strategy components, in which case evolutionary suicide is expected from all initial conditions.

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