Friends, Enemies and Frenemies in Nature

Tuesday 04 Jan 22


New study that reveals how ecological interactions shift between mutualism and antagonism has been selected as Editor’s Choice in the January 2022 edition of Oikos

When organisms interact with each other, there are a spectrum of potential outcomes from mutually beneficial (i.e. mutualistic or cooperative) or detrimental to one or both parties (i.e. antagonistic). Importantly, the outcomes are not necessarily fixed.

For example, bottlenose dolphins have been found to either cooperate or compete with human fisherman depending on individual differences in their foraging tactics (Cantor et al. 2018. Animal Behaviour). Similarly, the outcome of interactions between crayfish and their gill-cleaning symbionts may be mutualistic or parasitic depending on the age of crayfish or the feeding behaviour of symbionts (Thomas et al. 2016, Ecology). Outcomes can vary at an individual, population and species level, with potential evolutionary consequences for the species involved.

Thompson (1999, Science) referred to “the evolution of species interactions” to describe how interspecific interactions can vary over time and space. Our related concept of “outcome variance” may apply to many different kinds of interactions, both between species (e.g. plant-animal, host-symbiont interactions) and within species (e.g. social groups, male-female, parent-offspring interactions).

Based on a systematic review approach, this work brings together information from 96 empirical and theoretical publications to produce a conceptual framework for outcome variation in ecological interactions. This work uniquely focuses on the role of intraspecific trait variation, to provide a framework that encompasses all kinds of ecological interactions.

This paper was the result of a collaboration between researchers from the Centre for Ocean Life (DTU Aqua), Bielefeld University, the University of Münster, the University of Jena, and the University of Warwick. This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 836937 (NPM).

Read it here:

Nicholas P. Moran, Barbara A. Caspers, Nayden Chakarov, Ulrich R. Ernst, Claudia Fricke, Joachim Kurtz, Navina D. Lilie, Lai Ka Lo, Caroline Müller, Reshma R, Elina Takola, Pete C. Trimmer, Koen J. van Benthem, Jamie Winternitz & Meike J. Wittmann (2022) ‘Shifts between cooperation and antagonism driven by individual variation: a systematic synthesis review’, Oikos

Image: via R Package ‘wordcloud’

Contact: Nicholas Moran,
17 MAY 2022