|Cooperation and Lateral Forces: Moving Beyond Bottom-Up and Top-Down Drivers of Animal Population Dynamics
Rubenstein, Dustin R
|environmental quality; intraspecific cooperation; population dynamics; resilience; social evolution
|FRONTIERS MEDIA SA
|Frontiers in psychology
Biologists have long known that animal population dynamics are regulated by a combination of bottom-up (resource availability) and top-down forces (predation). Yet, economists have argued that human population dynamics can also be influenced by intraspecific cooperation. Despite awareness of the role of interspecific cooperation (mutualism) in influencing resource availability and animal population dynamics, the role of intraspecific cooperation (sociality) under different environmental conditions has rarely been considered. Here we examine the role of what we call "lateral forces" that act within populations and interact with external top-down and bottom-up forces in influencing population dynamics using an individual-based model linking environmental quality, intraspecific cooperation, and population size. We find that the proportion of cooperators is higher when the environment is poor and population sizes are greatest under intermediate resources levels due to the contrasting effects of resource availability on behavior and population size. We also show that social populations are more resilient to environmental change than non-social ones because the benefits of intraspecific cooperation can outweigh the effects of constrained resource availability. Our study elucidates the complex relationship between environmental harshness, cooperation, and population dynamics, which is important for understanding the ecological consequences of cooperation.
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