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Bernhard Voelkl
KLI Brown Bag
The Biological Market Paradigm: A General Framework for Cooperation and Trading in Biological Systems
Bernhard VOELKL (University of Vienna)
2009-10-15 13:15 - 2009-10-15 13:15
KLI for Evolution and Cognition Research, Altenberg, Austria
Organized by KLI

Topic description:
The biological market paradigm aims to explain the evolution and maintenance of cooperation in mutualistic trading of resources and services. The label 'biological markets' was originally 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, support, pollination). Partner choice and the option for partner switching have a controlling effect on the behaviour of current partners by outbidding competition between potential partners. On the proximate level outbidding competition drives an adaptation of exchange rates of goods and services to fluctuations in supply and demand of such commodities. On the ultimate level partner choice can lead to the selection of specific traits that benefits the choosing party, much like female choice selects for male traits under sexual selection. Several empirical examples for both phenomena have been published in systems as diverse as nutrient exchange between plant and bacteria or fungi, protection mutualism between ants and other insects or plants, grooming exchange in primates, and so forth. After this first wave of empirical studies the time is ripe for a refinement of the biological market paradigm. While the paradigm was originally formulated as a verbal model we aim to develop (1) a formal model for the adoption of exchange rates at equilibrium price in spatially structured populations (proximate level), and (2) investigate the evolutionary dynamics of populations with fair traders (ultimate level).


Biographical note:
Dr. Bernhard Voelkl studied Biology (Zoology) at the University of Vienna. He completed both his MSc. and his PhD under the supervision of Prof. Ludwig Huber studying imitation and social learning in marmosets. In 1997 he was asked by Prof. Riedl to establish a colony of marmosets for the newly built Vivarium of the KLI and he worked with these animals from 1997 until 2004. For his PhD studies he received a DOC stipend from the Austrian Academy of Science. After obtaining his PhD in 2005 he took a Post-Doc position at the CNRS in Strasbourg, working together with Ronald Noë on a refinement of the biological market paradigm. In 2009 he was granted an Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) to continue his theoretical work on biological markets. He received several small grants –including a travel bursary from the KLI for a conference in Paimpont. He is teaching scientific methodology at the University of Vienna and at various summer schools. He is a member of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour and an elected fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.


Selected publications:
Voelkl B (in press): Simulation of evolutionary dynamics in finite populations. The Mathematica Journal.
Voelkl B, Kasper K (2009): Social structure of primate interaction networks facilitates the emergence of cooperation. Biology Letters 5: 462-464.
Fruteau C, Voelkl B, van Damme E, Noë R (2009) The law of supply and demand determines the social value of vervet monkeys. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA, 106: 12007-12012.
Voelkl B, Noë R (2008) The influence of social structure on the propagation of social information in artificial primate groups: A graph-based simulation approach. Journal of Theoretical Biology 252: 77-86.