Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Biological markets: exchange of goods and services among non-human species

From the web pages of the French scientist Ronald Noe:

Biological Markets. "The label 'biological markets' was proposed by Noë & Hammerstein (1994; 1995) for all interactions between organisms in which one can recognise different classes of 'traders' that exchange commodities, such as goods (e.g. food, shelter, gametes) or services (e.g. warning calls, protection, pollination). "
"The characteristics of biological markets are found in mating systems ('mating markets'), mutualisms between members of different species and cooperation among conspecifics

"The term 'market' was chosen because it is assumed that shifts in supply and demand cause changes in the exchange value of the commodities traded. Important phenomena are: partner choice and outbidding.

"Formal properties of Biological Markets
Commodities are exchanged between individuals that differ in the degree of control over these commodities
Trading partners are chosen from a number of potential partners.
There is competition among the members of the chosen class to be the most attractive partner. This competition by 'outbidding' causes an increase in the value of the commodity offered.
Supply and demand determine the bartering value of commodities exchanged.
Commodities on offer can be advertised. As in commercial advertisements there is a potential for false information."

"Explicitly excluded is the use of physical force or threat to appropriate commodities or to eliminate the competition. The use of force is common, of course, as are theft and foul play in human markets, but one needs different paradigms to describe these phenomena.

"Examples of Biological Markets:
Obligate pollination mutualisms (to be added)
Ant protection mutualisms (to be added)
Mycorrhiza & rhizobia
Cleaner fish
Grooming in primates
Cooperative breeders
Delayed plumage maturation
Nest building in red bishops
links to further examples"

See also Market Models, on papers using game theory and comparative advantage to explore biological markets, which includes a bibliography of "Related theoretical approaches that also revolve around phenomena such as partner choice and competition by outbidding ..."

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