Research topics

Co-operation and conflict

Antagonistic interactions


Many biological interactions involve co-operation: it is evident in microbes, social insects and defensive mimicry. All examples also show the tragedy of the commons: whilst a co-operative individual carries the costs of co-operation, a ‘cheating’ individual does not, and the common good will diminish. Co-operative coalitions are inherently unstable, and often disintegrate at the expense of all partners involved.

At the other end of the continuum of biological interactions are those where antagonists exploit each other to the best of their abilities, eventually becoming interlocked in an evolutionary arms race. Most species belong to a community with predators, parasites and pathogens. Defences against one enemy may not work against another, and may even render individuals more susceptible to other exploiters: predator-prey and host-parasite dynamics may facilitate simultaneous alternative evolutionary outcomes (polymorphism).

Our aim is to explore the simultaneous antagonistic and synergistic interactions from the level of genes to the level of societies.