Very interesting article. Proves that exploitation of friends depletes the resources and results in cheaters in a symbiotic relationship to lose.
Nature has a shifty side. Bees cheat flowers. Flowers cheat bees. Fish cheat other fish, and so on. The more biologists look, the more skullduggery turns up.
skullduggery is rampant in nature, but cheated partners have ways to retaliate.
Theorists have long predicted that such anti-exploitation measures would have evolved. Now a burst of studies are revealing how real organisms cope with cheating. Most dramatic are the lethal punishments enacted by otherwise harmless-looking partners. “Plants can be brutal,” Kiers notes.
Outright punishments aren’t the only choice for coping with scam artists, though. Some mutualists appear to reward good behavior, an approach James Bever of Indiana University in Bloomington calls preferential allocation.
Some mutualists may not punish or goad substandard partners at all, treating them just as a nuisance to live with. Consider that flower that gets drained of nectar by a bee that doesn’t pollinate. “A bunch of flowers get damaged — oops! You make more,” says ecologist Rebecca E. Irwin of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.