Monday, February 3, 2014

Markets and microbes

Economists are sometimes accused of scientific imperialism, but what is it when biologists find market models useful, as in this paper from PNAS?

Evolution of microbial markets

Abstract: Biological market theory has been used successfully to explain cooperative behavior in many animal species. Microbes also engage in cooperative behaviors, both with hosts and other microbes, that can be described in economic terms. However, a market approach is not traditionally used to analyze these interactions. Here, we extend the biological market framework to ask whether this theory is of use to evolutionary biologists studying microbes. We consider six economic strategies used by microbes to optimize their success in markets. We argue that an economic market framework is a useful tool to generate specific and interesting predictions about microbial interactions, including the evolution of partner discrimination, hoarding strategies, specialized versus diversified mutualistic services, and the role of spatial structures, such as flocks and consortia. There is untapped potential for studying the evolutionary dynamics of microbial systems. Market
theory can help structure this potential by characterizing strategic investment of microbes across a diversity of conditions.

Update: my joke about imperialism was a bit opaque it turns out. To be clear, I'm a big admirer of cross fertilization between fields. Here's an earlier post about Noe's work...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Al Roth said...

On google+:
Rakesh Vohra5:31 PM

Actually there are some precursors to this. Here is a 2012 paper:

in which the Myerson-Satterthwaite model of bargaining plays a prominent role.

Going further back, Hammerstein and Noe have a 1995 paper entitled Biological Markets:


Ronald Noƫ said...

The original papers on biological markets (also before 1995) can be found on my website here:

Anonymous said...

Chaos and competition for resources are facts of life observed within ourselves and in nature from ocean life down to the microbe level. So why are we often presented as a fact of life that what we need and what is natural for us is for all aspects of our lives to be in balance? Emotional, economic, social, intellectual – you name it, we’re told that the natural model is one of balance.