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Research Letters in Ecology
Volume 2007, Article ID 18636, 5 pages
Research Letter

Evolving Ecological Social Dilemmas: A Spatial Individual-Based Model for the Evolution of Cooperation with a Minimal Number of Parameters

Instituto de Física, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Iguá 4225, Montevideo 11400, Uruguay

Received 23 July 2007; Accepted 7 November 2007

Academic Editor: Jean Clobert

Copyright © 2007 H. Fort. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cooperation, both intraspecific and interspecific, is a well-documented phenomenon in nature that is not well understood. Evolutionary game theory is a powerful tool to approach this problem. However, it has important limitations. First, very often it is not obvious which game is more appropriate to use. Second, in general, identical payoff matrices are assumed for all players, a situation that is highly unlikely in nature. Third, slight changes in these payoff values can dramatically alter the outcomes. Here, I use an evolutionary spatial model in which players do not have a universal payoff matrix, so no payoff parameters are required. Instead, each is equipped with random values for the payoffs, fulfilling the constraints that define the game(s). These payoff matrices evolve by natural selection. Two versions of this model are studied. First is a simpler one, with just one evolving payoff. Second is the “full” version, with all the four payoffs evolving. The fraction of cooperator agents converges in both versions to nonzero values. In the case of the full version, the initial heterogeneity disappears and the selected game is the “Stag Hunt.”