Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
Why Cooperate With Another Species? The Puzzles of Mutualism
The classic view of nature is one of a deathly struggle for existence both within and among species. Yet, throughout nature, species cooperate with each other. Mutualisms are more than fascinating natural history stories: they are central to the diversity and the diversification of life on our planet. During the past twenty-five years mutualisms have begun to attract focused scientific attention, but many mysteries remain. Charles Darwin mused that if species could be shown to act exclusively for the good of others, “it would annihilate my theory”. How do we now interpret mutualisms through a Darwinian lens? How can it persist in the face of a constant temptation to “cheat” one’s partner? Finally, what is the fate of mutualisms in a rapidly changing world? The main points in this talk will be illustrated by examples from nature, both familiar and exotic.