- On the (dis) advantages of cannibalism
- Journal of Mathematical Biology
- Volume | Issue number
- 51 | 6
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Cannibalism is an interaction between individuals that can produce counter- intuitive effects at the population level. A striking effect is that a population may persist under food conditions such that the non-cannibalistic variant is doomed to go extinct. This so-called life boat mechanism has received considerable attention. Implicitly, such studies sometimes suggest, that the life boat mechanism procures an evolutionary advantage to the cannibalistic trait.
Here we compare, in the context of a size structured population model, the conditions under which the life boat mechanism works, with those that guarantee, that a cannibalistic mutant can invade successfully under the steady environmental conditions as set by a non-cannibalistic resident. We find qualitative agreement and quantitative difference. In particular, we find that a prerequisite for the life boat mechanism is, that cannibalistic mutants are successful invaders. Roughly speaking, our results show that cannibalism brings advantages to both the individuals and the population when adult food is limiting.
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