Thursday, August 31, 2017

Biological markets--from primates to cleaner wrasses to plants

Evolution as the designer of market exchange between and among members of different species: here's a Bloomberg article about the work of the primatologist Ronald Noe, the mathematical biologist Peter Hammerstein and a variety of other biologists.

The Secret Economic Lives of Animals
Wasps do it, baboons do it. Economics isn’t just a human activity.

"In 1994, Noë and Hammerstein laid out their new theory of biological markets in the journal Behavioral Ecology & Socialbiology. The paper fused the biologists’ different styles: Hammerstein developed the mathematical models, while Noë dug through the scientific literature for evidence from the field. Examples turned up across the animal kingdom. Male scorpion flies offer females a “nuptial gift” of prey before mating. In some species of bird, such as the purple martin, a male will allow another male to occupy part of his territory in exchange for help raising his young. Lycaenid butterfly caterpillars produce a sweet “nectar” whose only purpose is to attract ants, which eat the nectar and protect the caterpillars from predators.
"Noë and Hammerstein admit that one of the hardest parts of their theory is to fix quantities and exchange rates; most of the time they can only say how a change in supply and demand will influence an exchange. And they are also careful to draw distinctions between human and biological markets. Animals obviously can’t use currency or sign contracts. And the animal kingdom has no third-party institutions to punish cheaters. Evolution may have produced fish dentists, but it has yet to produce fish lawyers."

Here are my earlier posts about work by Ronald Noe

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