Restricting mutualistic partners to enforce trade reliance

Gregory Wyatt, Erica Kiers, Andy Gardner, Stuart West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Mutualisms are cooperative interactions between members of different species, often involving the trade of resources. Here, we suggest that otherwise- cooperative mutualists might be able to gain a benefit from actively restricting their partners’ ability to obtain resources directly, hampering the ability of the restricted partner to survive and/or reproduce without the help of the restricting mutualist. We show that: (i) restriction can be favoured when restricting individuals increase their comparative advantage and thus receive more favourable terms of trade; (ii) restriction maintains cooperation in conditions where cooperative behaviour would otherwise collapse; and (iii) restriction can lead to either an increase or decrease in a restricted individual’s fitness. We discuss the applicability of this scenario to mutualisms such as those between plants and mycorrhizal fungi. These results identify a novel conflict in mutualisms as well as several public goods dilemmas, but also demonstrate how conflict can help maintain cooperation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10322
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2016


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