Eco-evolutionary dynamics of cooperation in the presence of policing

Article Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Journal of Theoretical Biology


Ecology and evolution are inherently linked, and studying a mathematical model that considers both holds promise of insightful discoveries related to the dynamics of cooperation. In the present article, we use the prisoner's dilemma (PD) game as a basis for long-term apprehension of the essential social dilemma related to cooperation among unrelated individuals. We upgrade the contemporary PD game with an inclusion of evolution-induced act of punishment as a third competing strategy in addition to the traditional cooperators and defectors. In a population structure, the abundance of ecologically-viable free space often regulates the reproductive opportunities of the constituents. Hence, additionally, we consider the availability of free space as an ecological footprint, thus arriving at a simple eco-evolutionary model, which displays fascinating complex dynamics. As possible outcomes, we report the individual dominance of cooperators and defectors as well as a plethora of mixed states, where different strategies coexist followed by maintaining the diversity in a socio-ecological framework. These states can either be steady or oscillating, whereby oscillations are sustained by cyclic dominance among different combinations of cooperators, defectors, and punishers. We also observe a novel route to cyclic dominance where cooperators, punishers, and defectors enter a coexistence via an inverse Hopf bifurcation that is followed by an inverse period doubling route.



Publication Date



Open Access, Green

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