Market models

There are a number of different approaches to the modelling of biological markets. Our original model (Noë & Hammerstein 1994) and the model by Johnstone & Bshary (2008) are based on game theory

A boa constructor and two shadowbirds

(see Noë & Hammerstein 1994)

Other models, such as those published by Mark Schwartz and Jason Hoeksema and by Miro Kummel and Steve Salant, are based on David Ricardo's (1817) principle of 'comparative advantage'. Cowden & Peterson (2009) used cellular automata to build a model of nutrient exchange mutualisms, while Claire de Mazancourt and Mark Schwartz (2010) propose a model based on resource ratio theory. Song & Feldman (2013) propose a solution to the problem of markets heading for clearance with a reduction of variance in supply and reduced levels of choosiness as a result.

Campenni & Schino (2014), using agent-based modelling, very nicely show that positive correlations between investments given and received, which is often seen as a 'proof' for partner control mechanisms, such as reciprocal altruism, can in fact result from pure partner choice mechanisms without any need for partner control. Thus, proof for the existence of partner control is and remains in direct contingencies, e.g. alternation of giving and receiving in the case of reciprocal altruism.

  • André, J.-B. and N. Baumard 2011. "The evolution of fairness in a biological market." Evolution 65: 1447-1456.
  • Campennì, M. & Schino, G. 2014. Partner choice promotes cooperation: The two faces of testing with agent-based models. Journal of Theoretical Biology 344, 49-55.
  • Cowden, C. C. & Peterson, C. J. 2009. A multi-mutualist simulation: Applying biological market models to diverse mycorrhizal communities. Ecological Modelling, 220, 1522-1533.
  • Hoeksema, J. D. & Schwartz, M. W. 2003. Expanding comparative-advantage biological market models: contingency of mutualism on partners’ resource requirements and acquisition trade-offs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 270, 913-919.
  • Johnstone, R. A. & Bshary, R. 2008. Mutualism, market effects and partner control. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 21, 879-888
  • Kummel, M. & Salant, S. W. 2006. The economics of mutualisms: optimal utilization of mycorrhizal mutualistic partners by plants. Ecology, 87, 892-902.
  • Mazancourt, C. d. & Schwartz, M. W. 2010. A resource ratio theory of cooperation. Ecology Letters, 13, 349-359.
  • Noë, R. & Hammerstein, P. 1994. Biological markets: supply and demand determine the effect of partner choice in cooperation, mutualism and mating. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 35, 1-11.
  • Schwartz, M. W. & Hoeksema, J. D. 1998. Specialization and resource trade: biological markets as a model of mutualisms. Ecology, 79, 1029-1038.
  • Song, Z. & Feldman, M. W. 2013. Plant–animal mutualism in biological markets: Evolutionary and ecological dynamics driven by non-heritable phenotypic variance. Theoretical Population Biology


Related theoretical approaches that also revolve around phenomena such as partner choice and competition by outbidding include:

  • Aktipis, C. A. 2011. "Is cooperation viable in mobile organisms? Simple Walk Away rule favors the evolution of cooperation in groups." Evolution and Human Behavior 32(4): 263-276.
  • Doebeli, M. & Knowlton, N. 1998. The evolution of interspecific mutualisms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 95, 8676-8680.
  • Sosis, R., Feldstein, S. & Hill, K. 1998. Bargaining theory and cooperative fishing participation on Ifakuk Atoll. Human Nature, 9, 163-203.
  • Roberts, G. 1998. Competitive altruism: from reciprocity to the handicap principle. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, B., 265, 427-431.
  • Johnson, D. D. P., Stopka, P. & Macdonald, D. W. 2004. Ideal flea constraints on group living: unwanted public goods and the emergence of cooperation. Behavioral Ecology, 15, 181-186.
  • Boza, G. & Scheuring, I. 2004. Environmental heterogeneity and the evolution of mutualism. Ecological Complexity, 1, 329–339.
  • Ferdy, J. B. & Godelle, B. 2005. Diversification of transmission modes and the evolution of mutualism. American Naturalist, 166, 613-627.
  • Edwards, D. P., Hassall, M., Sutherland, W. J. & Yu, D. W. 2006. Selection for protection in an ant–plant mutualism: host sanctions, host modularity, and the principal–agent game. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 273, 595 - 602.
  • Foster, K. & Kokko, H. 2006. Cheating can stabilize cooperation in mutualisms. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 273, 2233-2239.
  • Nesse, R. M. 2007. Runaway social selection for displays of partner value and altruism. Biological Theory, 2, 1-13.