When Paths to Cooperation Converge

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Science  14 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6100, pp. 1304-1305
DOI: 10.1126/science.1226328

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Observations of cooperation range from human philanthropy to fiddler crabs leaving their territories to help neighbors thwart an intruder (1). Two of the best-known explanations for such cooperation are direct reciprocity (2), in which cooperation evolves as a conditional strategy over repeated interactions, and population structuring (3), in which cooperators associate disproportionately with cooperators. However, many systems have the potential to generate cooperation through both of these routes; for example, common murres (see the figure) regularly preen both their mates and close colony neighbors over repeated interactions. How might these routes to cooperation interact? In a recent paper, van Veelen et al. (4) consider this question in a systematic way. Their answer is unexpected.

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