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Clonal selection prevents tragedy of the commons when neighbors compete in a rock-paper-scissors game

Relative acceleration in growth rates of a mutating species in rock-paper-scissors game

By Jeppe Juul, Kim Sneppen, and Joachim Mathiesen

The rock-paper-scissors game is a model example of the on-going cyclic turnover typical of many ecosystems, ranging from the terrestrial and aquatic to the microbial. Here we explore the evolution of a rock-paper-scissors system where three species compete for space. The species are allowed to mutate and change the speed by which they invade one another. In the case when all species have similar mutation rates, we observe a perpetual arms race where no single species prevails. When only two species mutate, their aggressions increase indefinitely until the ecosystem collapses and only the non-mutating species survives. Finally we show that when only one species mutates, group selection removes individual predators with the fastest growth rates, causing the growth rate of the species to stabilize. We explain this group selection quantitatively.

The article can be found here.