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Evolutionary Game Dynamics in Populations with Heterogeneous Structures

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003567

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Evolutionary graph theory is a well established framework for modelling the evolution of social behaviours in structured populations. An emerging consensus in this field is that graphs that exhibit heterogeneity in the number of connections between individuals are more conducive to the spread of cooperative behaviours. In this article we show that such a conclusion largely depends on the individual-level interactions that take place. In particular, averaging payoffs garnered through game interactions rather than accumulating the payoffs can altogether remove the cooperative advantage of heterogeneous graphs while such a difference does not affect the outcome on homogeneous structures. In addition, the rate at which game interactions occur can alter the evolutionary outcome. Less interactions allow heterogeneous graphs to support more cooperation than homogeneous graphs, while higher rates of interactions make homogeneous and heterogeneous graphs virtually indistinguishable in their ability to support cooperation. Most importantly, we show that common measures of evolutionary advantage used in homogeneous populations, such as a comparison of the fixation probability of a rare mutant to that of the resident type, are no longer valid in heterogeneous populations. Heterogeneity causes a bias in where mutations occur in the population which affects the mutant's fixation probability. We derive the appropriate measures for heterogeneous populations that account for this bias.


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