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Chromodynamics of Cooperation in Finite Populations

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Traulsen, A., & Nowak, M. A. (2007). Chromodynamics of Cooperation in Finite Populations. PLoS One, 2(3). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000270.

Background. The basic idea of tag-based models for cooperation is that individuals recognize each other via arbitrary signals, so-called tags. If there are tags of different colors, then cooperators can always establish new signals of recognition. The resulting "chromodynamics'' is a mechanism for the evolution of cooperation. Cooperators use a secret tag until they are discovered by defectors who then destroy cooperation based on this tag. Subsequently, a fraction of the population manages to establish cooperation based on a new tag. Methodology/Principal Findings. We derive a mathematical description of stochastic evolutionary dynamics of tag-based cooperation in populations of finite size. Benefit and cost of cooperation are given by b and c. We find that cooperators are more abundant than defectors if b/c > 1+2u/v, where u is the mutation rate changing only the strategy and v is the mutation rate changing strategy and tag. We study specific assumptions for u and v in two genetic models and one cultural model. Conclusions/Significance. In a genetic model, tag-based cooperation only evolves if a gene encodes both strategy and tag. In a cultural model with equal mutation rates between all possible phenotypes (tags and behaviors), the crucial condition is b/c > (K+1)/(K21), where K is the number of tags. A larger number of tags requires a smaller benefit-to-cost ratio. In the limit of many different tags, the condition for cooperators to have a higher average abundance than defectors becomes b > c.