Mutualism and Exploitation in Plant-Pollinator Relationships

4 April 2015
This paper examines cheating in plant-pollinator mutualisms.

This paper examines some of the ecological dynamics and game theory behind mutualisms and cheaters focusing on plant-pollinator relationships.
Table of Contents

Mutualism and Exploitation in Plant-Pollinator Relationships Essay Example

Reciprocal Exploitation

Defensive Strategies: fruit abortion and selective maturation

Offensive Strategies: cheating insects

To cheat or not to cheat?

Evolutionary Consequences of Cheating


“Although mutualisms have often been heralded as mutually beneficial relationships that exist for the good of all those involved, they are often not as good-natured as people would think (Soberon & Martinez del Rio 1985). Perhaps Darwin knew best when he claimed that “Natural selection cannot possibly produce any modification in any one species exclusively for the good of another species; though throughout nature one species incessantly takes advantage of, and profits by, the structures of another” (1859). Upon close inspection of the many mutualisms that pervade the global ecology, it becomes clear that there is a strong incentive for exploitation, either by one of the partners in the mutualism or by a third party species. Because of the conflict of interest that often exists between members of a mutualism, certain tendencies to “cheat” have evolved. By escaping the costs that go hand in hand with mutualisms, these cheaters are able to reap the benefits of the mutualistic relationship without having to provide any services or resources in return. Far from one partner acting altruistically toward the other, members in mutualisms are actually pursuing their own agendas, often carrying out self-beneficial actions as far as the other partner will allow. ”
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