Academic journal article Science and Children

Cheating Might Be Rare among Mutualistic Organisms

Academic journal article Science and Children

Cheating Might Be Rare among Mutualistic Organisms

Article excerpt

A review of dozens of key ecological studies has found little evidence to support one of the field's commonly held beliefs: Cheating is widespread among "mutualists," species that cooperate with one another for mutual benefit.

"We find that although there are numerous observations of low-quality partners, there is currently very little support ... that any of these meet our criteria to be considered cheaters," according to the study.

Emily Jones, the study's co-lead author, said a 14-member research team found that cheating has never had a common definition in ecology. Thus, although hundreds of studies have reportedly examined mutualistic "cheating," most were actually examining only limited aspects of it.

"By definition, a behavior is only cheating if it provides one partner with an advantage and also imposes a disadvantage on the other partner," says Jones. "We found that most previous definitions were focused on just one side of the interaction. People have tended to be narrowly focused on whether one partner was either giving less of a resource or taking more from the other partner, but neither of those qualifies as cheating unless the other partner is harmed. …

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